Category Archives: Goofy Projects

Solar Powered Electric Fence for Chicken Predators

Solar Powered Fence Charging Station

Solar Powered Fence Charging Station

Over the past couple of years I have made some major changes and improvements to my electric fencing projects. You can see my original, more modest efforts here. This is still a good page to get the basics. However, I have migrated away from fully electric fence for the goats. The fence worked just fine for them, however, the thick brush was impossible to keep clear of the fence lines and periodic flooding also occurred so the fence continually grounded out.
It is really hard to run electric fence through this! It periodically floods, is almost always swampy and the weeds grow up seemingly overnight!

It is really hard to run electric fence through this! It periodically floods, is almost always swampy and the weeds grow up seemingly overnight!

Ironically, my main “brush clearing” employees (the goats) were so afraid of the electric fence, they wouldn’t go near it. As such, the weeds quickly grow up and shorted it out. I briefly gave up on electric fence and instead I switched to 4 foot welded wire on T-posts. However, the goats quickly learned to “climb” this fence to reach tasty branches on the other side and thus collapsed it, so I needed to retain one electric wire to keep them off and away from the fence. However, I am able to keep this hot wire high enough off the ground to reduce some of the pressure from weeds. In the really swampy area, I have a few knife switch cut-offs, so I can shut this section off during high weed season, the cattails and phragmites grow tall enough to put heavy pressure on the fence. I did however, find a new purpose to expand my electric fencing project. I have converted a half acre plot into a small orchard and this is also a nice place to have my chickens free range in the grassy area. I have a five foot tall welded wire fence enclosing this area completely, but the foxes very soon figured out it was easy to dig underneath to start grabbing the hens. I quickly grew tired of plugging all their holes as it was a never ending task and the thought of extending the fence underground along its entire length was just too daunting (particularly with all the tree roots and fieldstones everywhere). As such, I put one hot wire very close to the ground to stop any digging activities.
Anti-Predator electric fence wire about 6-8 inches off the ground running along the outside perimeter.

Anti-Predator electric fence wire about 6-8 inches off the ground running along the outside perimeter.

I was a little nervous about it shorting out (as per above), but this area of the farm is a little shadier along the fence line (under a heavy tree canopy) and thus the weed pressure is a lighter, also since it doesn’t go through the swampiest areas, it is easier to maintain once in awhile with a weed whacker. So far it seems to be working. The materials I needed to do this are as follows:
  • Homemade electric fence brackets made of PT 2X4
  • Screw-in plastic insulators for wood posts
  • Nylon wire tensioners (not the steel type for high tensile fence)
  • 18 Gauge Aluminum Fence Wire (recycled from my goat fence project)
  • 2’ and 4’ sections of rebar for tricky areas
  • Rebar electric fence insulators
  • ½” Black HDPE irrigation pipe (to insulate wire that needs to snake through another fence) and zip ties
  • Electric fence gate handles and anchors
  • Assorted hardware including 3” galvanized wood screws
Regarding the homemade electric fence brackets, I needed these because I wanted to use the existing wood posts to hold the electric wire. However, I have always found that if I just used the screw in plastic insulators directly on the post, the electric wire was always too close to the welded wire fence and shorted out. Even the slightest bowing of the welded wire would cause it to come in direct contact with the electric wire. A small branch falling on the hot wire would push it against the fence too. There doesn’t seem to be a cheap and ready-made product to make the hot wire “stand-off” a bit from the fence so I made my own. Basically, I have been saving all my PT 2X4 scraps from my fencing project and cut them into 8” pieces for the base and 4” pieces to hold the insulators. Of course, I painted them all green to match the fence posts.
Making my homemade electric fence brackets, assembly line style!

Making my homemade electric fence brackets, assembly line style!

These really help to keep the hot wire a good distance from the actual metal fence and make it just that much more difficult to short out, yet also keep predators away. Once I had my brackets made, it was easy enough to screw a plastic insulator onto the end of each one (I used two insulators on corners, as there is more pressure) and then screw the bracket onto the fence post so the hot wire was about 6 or 8 inches from the ground.
Fence bracket in action. This one requires two insulators as it is rounding a corner.

Fence bracket in action. This one requires two insulators as it is rounding a corner.

So I went along like this, but invariably there were some irregularities. In areas where my fence was bowing out too much and hit the hot wire… well, I pounded in some rebar stakes to hold it back.
Rebar holding back the welded wire fence to prevent shorting it out.

Rebar holding back the welded wire fence to prevent shorting it out.

In areas where I needed to go through an adjoining fence, I put a section of HDPE pipe and a couple zip ties to act as an insulating conduit.
A small length of HDPE irrigation pipe to act as an insulating conduit.

A small length of HDPE irrigation pipe to act as an insulating conduit.

In a few areas I needed to put small rebar stakes with an insulator to help hold the hot wire away from trees and other obstacles.
Rebar stake to help position the wire "exactly" where it needs to be.

Rebar stake to help position the wire "exactly" where it needs to be.

Another piece of rebar with an insulator to help me weave the wire through some existing trees.

Another piece of rebar with an insulator to help me weave the wire through some existing trees.

  I also have several gates that needed to be addressed. For gates that are used for tractor access, I obviously needed an electric gate that can be disconnected an moved. For “human” gates, this wasn’t really necessary, as it is just as easy to step over this low wire as it is to disconnect a gate. You can buy a fancy kit that has spring-type wire for the gate, but I find it easy enough just to double over some regular aluminum wire and use just a simple handle with a pair of gate anchors at either end. This will only run you about 5-10 dollars or so.
Gate Handle

Gate Handle

Close-up of customized gate hardware mounted on my fence bracket.

Close-up of customized gate hardware mounted on my fence bracket.

Also, I added a lightning arrestor, and a handful of nylon fence tighteners to help me keep the wire from sagging.
A ceramic lightning arrestor attached to a ground rod. Hopefully, this will spare my charger in the event of a lightning strike (has not happened yet!).

A ceramic lightning arrestor attached to a ground rod. Hopefully, this will spare my charger in the event of a lightning strike (has not happened yet!).

Close-up of the lightning arrestor. This is one time use, and will need to be replaced in the event of a lightning strike (think of it as a fuse).

Close-up of the lightning arrestor. This is one time use, and will need to be replaced in the event of a lightning strike (think of it as a fuse).

In the end, by hook or by crook, I got all the wire hung (maybe 800-1000 feet, something like this). This system has been working great for me. It has been in place for nearly two years, and there hasn’t been a single hole dug under the fence. About once a week I check it with my Zareba “Fence Doctor” to check the voltage and determine if there are any shorts.
The "Fence Doctor." This is worth the money for long fences. If your fence is short, get a basic tester for much less.

The "Fence Doctor." This is worth the money for long fences. If your fence is short, get a basic tester for much less.

If you are going to have a significant amount of electric fence (I would say over a 4-500 feet), I highly recommend getting a “Fence Doctor” or similar high end fence tester. It was a bit pricey at over a hundred bucks, but if there is a short it will indicate in which direction you can find the short. This can save you a significant time and energy when trying to find that one little branch that is pushing on the hot wire. If you have a shorter fence (say maybe just a around a small chicken run) it is a waste of money. Just get a regular voltage tester and you will be fine. One unforeseen issue I have had is with (if you can believe it) snow in the winter... It tears my homemade fence brackets and knife switches apart! For two springs now, after the snow melts away I have encountered multiple broken fence brackets (the two 3” wood screws are that hold these brackets together literally snapped in half). Originally, I thought maybe someone was standing on the brackets as a convenient step to try to scale the fence (what else could snap steel wood screws like this?). However, I think I have figured this out. In the winter, the snow drifts against the fence (sometimes 3 or more feet deep). The sun melts the top layer of the snow during the day that then refreezes at night into a solid sheet of ice an inch or two thick on the top. Eventually, the underlying snow either melts or blows away and this enormous sheet of ice is now resting directly on the fence wire and it snaps the holders as it weighs hundreds of pounds. Similarly a couple of cut-off knife switches have been pulled apart at the plastic base. I think what happens here is that the reeds have grown up over the wire and then died back in frost and end up draped over the wire. This catches the snow and ice and just like with the brackets, the weight pulls the switches apart. So in order to prevent this, I put a couple of screw in insulators in front of the switches to take the additional strain off of the switches directly. So far, so good on this fix.
Protecting my delicate cut-off switches from excessive strain by tying the wire off on two separate insulators.

Protecting my delicate cut-off switches from excessive strain by tying the wire off on two separate insulators.

In both instances here (if you can believe it) the tensile strength of the aluminum wire is such that the wire remains intact as the brackets and switches give way first. I just prepare to replace a few of these each spring after the thaw before turning the fence back on for the season as there is probably no other way around this. I have also made major upgrades to my fence charger and solar power system.
This is my original, basic fence charging station. This had a single battery, a 15 watt solar panel, a 7 amp charge controller, and a 1 joule fence charger.

This is my original, basic fence charging station. This had a single battery, a 15 watt solar panel, a 7 amp charge controller, and a 1 joule fence charger.

This is my second fence charging station near the orchard. Likewise, this had only a single battery, and the most basic solar panel and charge controller. The 2 joule charger, quickly drained the battery.

This is my second fence charging station near the orchard. Likewise, this had only a single battery, and the most basic solar panel and charge controller. The 2 joule charger, quickly drained the battery.

I have doubled the power of my fence charger from 1 Joule to 2. This particular charger is rated for 50 miles of fence (with only a single wire, I don’t think I even have half a mile of wire). However, the extra power gives it more resistance to weeds, as well as over 10,000 volts to keep the predators at bay and the goats contained. I also had two separate “fence charging stations” for each location (orchard and goat field), that I consolidated into one. I built this charging station directly into the fence and this keeps everything dry and protected.
This is my consolidated, comprehensive electric fence command center. the doors close up to keep it relatively weather proof. 1. On/Off switch (just a regular household switch) 2. 2 Joule fence charger 3. 30 amp solar charge controller 4. Plastic box to store my fence tester 5. 3, 105AH deep cycle batteries wired in parallel 6. Can of Hornet Spray, as my fence charging station doubles as a "hornet house". They love it!

This is my consolidated, comprehensive electric fence command center. the doors close up to keep it relatively weather proof.
1. On/Off switch (just a regular household switch)
2. 2 Joule fence charger
3. 30 amp solar charge controller
4. Plastic box to store my fence tester
5. 3, 105AH deep cycle batteries wired in parallel
6. Can of Hornet Spray, as my fence charging station doubles as a "hornet house". They love it!

Using a two knife switches on the hot wire, I can have either or both locations electrified and it can all be turned on and off from one central location.
Two stainless steel knife switches that control the goat and orchard areas independently.

Two stainless steel knife switches that control the goat and orchard areas independently.

  The downside of this power increase is the fact that my single 15 watt solar panel (amorphous silicon) has absolutely no hope of competing with the battery drain.
My original, vastly underpowered, 15 watt, amorphous silicon solar panel.

My original, vastly underpowered, 15 watt, amorphous silicon solar panel.

With both areas electrified and a moderate weed load, the battery would drain down in a month, even with good sunlight. It was particularly bad in the fall when the weeds were full grown but the day length is growing shorter, and thus, less sun for the panel. I played around with adding a few more 15 watt solar panel (as they are relatively cheap and available at Harbor Freight Tools). However, I finally gave up with these and bought some “real” solar panels. I ended up upgrading to three Renogy 100 watt monocrystalline solar panels (for a .3 kilowatt array).
My upgraded 300 Watt monocrystalline solar panel array.

My upgraded 300 Watt monocrystalline solar panel array.

I also needed to upgrade my solar charge controller from a 7 amp to a 30 amp to handle the extra output of the panels. Lastly, I added an additional battery, giving me about 315 amp hours of power (a good reserve). So far, this has easily kept pace with the output from the new charger and additional strain of the larger area even with weeds. All in all, I am happy with these upgrades, and my fence is easily able to keep foxes and other animals from digging under the fence and my goats respect the fence as well.

Build Your Own High Capacity Chicken Nipple Waterer

Homemade Chicken Nipple Waterer Homemade Chicken Nipple Waterer I have spent alot of time perfecting my rainwater chicken watering system which you can find here.However, the time has come for me to get rid of my traditional “open water” chicken waterer and convert to something more professional. Firstly, I wanted to make a cover for my 150 gallon water reservoir. I am still a big fan of using stock tanks as a water tank/reservoir for various reasons. These include ease of cleaning, relative cheap cost, multiple different heaters available for the winter, etc. However, without a cover it is impossible to keep clean (leaves, etc.) and they quickly become mosquito breeding ponds. Next, I am trying to move away from any type of “open water” drinking area. No matter how much I try, the chickens continually foul the water and thus the actual drinking area is also difficult to keep clean. So, I decided to give poultry nipple waterers a try to see if that could remedy that issue. So basically, I am rebuilding my entire system.
Rough Cut Plywood Stock Tank Cover

Rough Cut Plywood Stock Tank Cover

First step was to make a cover for stock tank. I opted for ½” plywood. Simply cutting off the last three feet of a standard sheet will yield a 5’ by 4” foot piece that is just a bit larger than a 150 gallon Rubbermaid stock tank. I wanted to make the lid a bit larger to act as its own rain catching area as well as funneling rainwater from the gutters.
Drainage Hole

Drainage Hole

Double-Layer of Window Screen Applied

Double-Layer of Window Screen Applied

Next step was to cut a 21/8” hole through the center of the board and a lined it with a double layer of nylon window screening stapled to the back to keep out the leaves and other debris. I am a bit nervous the hole may be too small, but that is the largest hole saw I happened to have! At any rate, I can always enlarge later if it looks like it is backing up.
Construction adhesive applied to waterproof the "edges"

Construction adhesive applied to waterproof the "edges"

2X4 Sides Attached and Caulked with Silicone

2X4 Sides Attached and Caulked with Silicone

Next, I wanted to build up the sides a bit to catch the water and give it time to percolate through the screen. For this I used standard 2X4 lumber. I put polyurethane construction adhesive down prior to screwing this together. My hope was that would help waterproof the joints. I also caulked the inside with silicone. This should make the water catching area relatively water tight.
My Completed Stock Tank Cover (for another tank) Connected to a Gutter Downspout

My Completed Stock Tank Cover (for another tank) Connected to a Gutter Downspout

Next, I wanted to redesign the spigot on my tank. I am trying to move away from using garden hose components as they are constantly kinking up. Instead, I am using all PVC with a standard brass boiler spigot. My Rubbermaid tank has a 11/4” bulkhead fitting. I am pretty sure they are all the same size, but if I were you I would take the factory plug out of the fitting and take it with you to the plumbing department to ensure you get the right size. The parts I used were as follows:
Stock Tank Spigot Parts

Stock Tank Spigot Parts

  • 11/4” PVC Male Adapter
  • 11/4” to ½” Reducer Coupling
  • Small section of ½” pipe
  • ½” female adapter
  • ½” brass boiler spigot
  • PVC Piper Primer and PVC Pipe Glue
  • Teflon tape
I glued this all together (and don’t forget the Teflon tape for the spigot) and it works just great without the kinked hose of my last model.
Completed Spigot

Completed Spigot

Next step was to build a pedestal for the stock tank. I want to get this up a bit of the ground to generate just a bit of water pressure. 150 gallons of water weighs about 1,250 pounds so this is going to have to be a relatively strong pedestal. For this, I opted for concrete blocks. I didn’t bother to cement them together as I am only going up three tiers (if it was more than this, it would probably get a bit unstable). But I did make sure they were perfectly level. I simply cut an 8 foot 2x8 I had laying around in half in order to make two four foot sections to support the entire tank.
Concrete Block Pedestal- Make Sure to Completely Level This!

Concrete Block Pedestal- Make Sure to Completely Level This!

Supporting Board Installed on the Pedestal

Supporting Board Installed on the Pedestal- You Can Add a Shim if Required

Next, it was simply a matter of screwing in the spigot (don’t forget the Teflon tape again!), putting the stock tank on the stand, and putting on the cover. I was easily able to put my downspout from the chicken coop gutter to aid in water gathering. So now, it was just a matter of making the nipple waterer to attach to my new reservoir.
Completed, Rain-Fed, and Covered Stock Tank Reservoir

Completed, Rain-Fed, and Covered Stock Tank Reservoir

Okay, there are multiple schools of thought on homemade nipple waterers. The more simple designs use a 5 gallon bucket, the more complex almost always use PVC pipe. The most common way to attach the actual watering nipple to a PVC pipe usually includes drilling a 3/8” hole in the pipe (this seems to be the standard size for the ubiquitous red nipple) and slathering it with silicon. This method looks a little leak prone to me. So instead, I drilled a hole at 11/32” and then used a 3/8” pipe tap to actually thread the PVC so that you could literally screw the nipple in with just some Teflon tape. I tried this and it worked great with no leaks. However, for this particular model, I upgraded to factory made PVC “Tee” sections with a dedicated 3/8” female adapter built in. I got 10 of these off of Amazon for less than 2 dollars each.  So the complete parts list for my new waterer includes:Poultry Watering Nipple 2016_06
Chicken Nipple Waterer Parts

Chicken Nipple Waterer Parts

  • One ¾” male adapter
  • One ¾” to ½” reducer bushing
  • Two 6” pieces of ½” pipe
  • One ½” elbow
  • Five 1’ sections of ½” pipe
  • Five PVC “Tee” sections
  • One 1/2'” female adapter
  • One ½” brass boiler spigot
  • PVC Pipe Primer and PVC Pipe Glue
  • Teflon tape
  • 5 Nipples
Waterer Glued Together with Nipples Installed

Waterer Glued Together with Nipples Installed

So basically, I primed and glued this together like in the picture. After I built it, I ended up moving the elbow to point down rather than up, but really there is no hard and fast methodology here. Basically, you need to position the hose end in such a way you minimize kinking of the hose. I suppose you could also use straight PVC pipe, but I like a bit of flexibility in positioning. Even with the purpose build “Tee” sections, I still used Teflon tape on each and every nipple. I hand tightened these, and then gave them a turn and half with a wrench. I want just enough pressure to gently squeeze the silicon gasket but not so much that it bulges out of place. The boiler spigot will make it easier to drain the waterer for maintenance or winter (freezing water will easily crack the pipe). Also, I could also daisy chain another waterer using this spigot and another short hose.
Washing Machine Hose Kits Make Good Connectors for Chicken Waterers

Washing Machine Hose Kits Make Good Connectors for Chicken Waterers

Normally, I use washing machine connector hoses, as these seem to kink alot less than standard garden hoses, and I like the female to female connections better, because it is a bit simpler for me to try to standardize the connections a bit (male on pipe, female on hose). However, for this particular installation I ended up using a 12 foot piece of garden hose.
Completed Chicken Waterer with Rebar Stand

Completed Chicken Waterer with Rebar Stand

Zip-Tied to Rebar

Zip-Tied to Rebar

To make a stand for the waterer, I used three 4’ sections of rebar and just simple zip ties. It holds it firm, but it is still just wobbly enough to prevent the chickens from roosting on it. So far so good! It only took a couple days for all the chickens to get used to this. They seem to learn from each other. Also our free range turkeys seemed to learn how to use this from the chickens! They are a bit too tall, but they still seem to prefer this over their water bowl, or drinking from the pond. I will build a taller model for them.

Building a Dry Stone Fieldstone Wall

In this post, I will explain about my latest fieldstone wall project and how anyone with basic skills can build a rustic fieldstone wall!
Fieldstone Wall Project

Fieldstone Wall Project

The vegetable garden area of the farm is on a slope (an area maybe 50 feet x 70 feet) and one end was in dire need of a retaining wall. I had originally used some bales of straw I had lying around as a makeshift retaining wall. This actually worked pretty well for about two years until the straw really started rotting and the turkeys tore it apart. So the edges of the garden were spilling over and hard to maintain. So it was time to build something a bit more permanent.
In the vegetable garden the temporary retaining wall of straw bales has deterioriated

In the vegetable garden the temporary retaining wall of straw bales has deterioriated

So I decided on fieldstones for a number of reasons
  • Relatively easy to build
  • Doesn’t need a footing
  • Can find stones for free
  • Basically lasts forever
  • Does not leach any chemicals (I know new pressure treated lumber is supposed to be okay for gardens, but I am not chancing it)
First step was to locate some rocks. I had a small supply of rocks to start off, but I needed many more. I put an ad on Craigslist and sure enough, someone the next town over had tons (literally) to get rid of. Apparently the builders of their relatively new home had to dynamite out some ledge rock in order to put in the foundation (the owner told me he still finds pieces of blasting cord!). However, I guess they just dumped all the rock pieces in the back yard and put topsoil over it. Now, predictably these rocks are working through the soil and they want them gone. No problem! I made about 20 or 30 trips with my trailer hauling all these over.
Hauling loads of free stone found on Craigslist

Hauling loads of free stone found on Craigslist

The next step was to clean up the edge of the garden. My John Deere 2320 with a front loader cut a nice sharp edge for me to start the retaining wall. However, I still did a lot of shoveling.
Shaping the "retaining wall" side of the garden

Shaping the "retaining wall" side of the garden

Okay, now before people start going bananas on me, (and as I previously mentioned), I don’t dig a footing and here is why:
  • It’s a lot of work and I’m lazy! (primary reason)
  • This is a short wall (only 3 feet tall max, most of it is about 2 feet), slopes backwards, and is relatively thick (about 2 feet)
  • I don’t care about widening gaps due to frost heaves.
  • If a few stones fall out here or there, or even if the whole thing collapses it will be easy to fix.
  • I have built about 300 feet of wall like this previously. That has been standing for nearly 5 years and no sections have ever collapsed and only about three stones have popped out in all that time (easy to pop back in)
  • There is about 500 feet of stone wall on the farm dating back to the 1700 and 1800s. I am willing to bet the builders didn’t put a footing under these walls, yet they are still standing just fine!
So instead, I just dig down to good solid dirt (remove the leaves and loose topsoil) and start stacking. If you are planning on building a bigger wall, cannot tolerate any shifting of stones, or definitely if you plan on using pre-manufactured blocks, you are going to need a solid footing. Otherwise expect to frost heaves to start moving things around. A short, dry stone wall such as mine has some “give” and thus is much more forgiving. So on to the construction process! It is really simple. First I separated out my stones
  • The largest, flattest stones should be saved for the top
  • The largest, roundest or irregular shaped stones should be on saved for the bottom
  • The smallest stones should be saved for the middle between the two wall courses (also called “hearting”)
  • Medium sized stones should be making up the bulk of the wall.
I build my wall as actually two separate stone walls next to each other, very similar to the diagram below.
Basic concepts of a double stone wall filled with "hearting" stone

Basic concepts of a double stone wall filled with "hearting" stone

I made sure the flattest and “best” face of each stone was facing outward. Stacking is relatively easy as they are stacked like bricks… “Two over one and one over two.” I would put down a course of larger rocks, and then literally pour smaller rocks from a five gallon bucket into the middle. You have to jigger these rocks around to ensure there are no air spaces. All the sharp angles of these rocks produced from the blasting effects really “bite” into each other and really help with the integrity. If I had baseball sized rocks, it would be a bit harder (but not impossible). For the section of the wall that was more for retaining (as opposed to free standing), I angled the wall backwards a bit as I worked upwards.
Wall project begins. The tractor was useful to ferry and sort rocks from the various piles

Wall project begins. The tractor was useful to ferry and sort rocks from the various piles

Close-up of basic wall construction

Close-up of basic wall construction

A few more courses on the wall, following the same method described

A few more courses on the wall, following the same method described

So, I continued like this.. oh……. for about two months until I had entirely circled the garden… leaving just enough space to get the tractor inside if needed.
More progress on the wall

More progress on the wall

Rounding a corner. Save some interesting looking stones for the corners as they naturally attract the eye

Rounding a corner. Save some interesting looking stones for the corners as they naturally attract the eye

For aesthetic purposes I bought a few pallets of flat Pennsylvania fieldstone for the very top course. This is not required at all, but gives the wall, a somewhat more finished look. If I was a millionaire, I could have built the entire wall out of Pennsylvania fieldstone, but it would have been at least $8,000 worth of stone! I got away with just buying 4 pallets for $800. But again, not really needed.
Finished wall with purchased Pennsylvania fieldstone as the top couple of layers. They add a nice finished look

Finished wall with purchased Pennsylvania fieldstone as the top couple of layers. They add a nice finished look

Another angle of complete wall

Another angle of complete wall

So in summary, I got about 200 feet of wall for about $4 dollars a foot (the cost of the fieldstone) and probably 200 hours of labor! Hey, the way I see it you can spend hours at the gym using a Nautilus machine for no purpose, or you can lift rocks in your backyard to the same effect, but make a useful wall that will last for centuries!

Build Your Own Simple Egg Washer

 
Assemble your parts to build your own egg washer

Assemble your parts to build your own egg washer

If you have a lot of chickens and you are tired of washing eggs by hand you might want to try to build your own egg washer. Most “egg washers” work on the principle of bubbling water over the eggs (without the need for detergents or manual scrubbing). You can purchase an egg washer online and there are several models to chose from. However, all of these seem to be modifications to 5 gallon buckets and they want to charge you over a hundred dollars! I have found a couple of designs to build your own on the web but many of them are very complicated with PVC pipe etc. I wanted to build a “quick and dirty” model that was easy and fast to put together. I figured if it works well, I might want to build something fancier later. First I gathered the parts. I already had a pump I use for my pond that puts out a reasonable amount of air using ¾” ID lumen tubing. I got a length of clear vinyl tubing and a 5 gallon bucket/lid at Cheapo Depot and I decided to reuse the existing air diffuser. Also needed a couple of stainless steel pipe clamps to make sure it held together.
Drilling a 1" hole through the lid of the bucket

Drilling a 1" hole through the lid of the bucket

I used a 1” spade bit to drill a hole through the center to fit the tubing.
Attaching the tubing to the pump and the diffuser with stainless steel pipe clamps

Attaching the tubing to the pump and the diffuser with stainless steel pipe clamps

I connected the pump and diffuser to the tubing with stainless steel pipe clamps
Egg washer assembled

Egg washer assembled

I filled it with plain water and eggs and got ready for my first test.
Homemade egg washer in action

Homemade egg washer in action

I think I had one cracked egg… which really caused the water to foam. However, after about 15 minutes.. the eggs were sparkling clean. All in all, this only cost me about 15 bucks to make (because I already had the pump). I would say before you purchase a $130 model online, you might want to try to build your own.. Just to see if you like it. This works great.. but just one more thing to clean and store! For small amount of eggs, it’s really just easier to wash by hand. Let me know how your project turns out.

Trex Birdhouse

Finished Trex Birdhouse_2015

Trex Birdhouse

I got tired of rebuilding pine birdhouses every few years as they rotted out and I also read that PT pine isn’t safe for the birds (not sure about that, but I will ere on the side of caution) so I investigated using Trex lumber. Usually reserved for decks, this material is weather and rot resistant and would seem to me to be an ideal material to build a bird house. I selected a nice brown color Trex board. I was a bit worried about a darker color overheating the chicks inside, but I plan to hang this in relatively deep shade in a grove of big white pine trees. First step was to measure out the pieces. You can make two birdhouses from a single board. There is a plethora of websites that will explain the exact dimensions and size of the hole for attracting specific birds, so I won’t go into that. Since I am trying to attract Nuthatches, this particular birdhouse will have 8” sides, a 10” top (for some overhang rain protection) a 14” back (to make space for a hanging hole), and the floor is 4.5”.
Measuring the birdhouse sections

Measuring the birdhouse sections

Completed birdhouse pieces

Completed birdhouse pieces

After cutting all the boards, I next started to work on the entrance hole. Nuthatches like a hole exactly 1.25” in diameter and it should be about 6” from the floor. I carefully measured and centered before cutting. I selected a spade bit for the hole. Be prepared for the Trex board to cut in huge ribbons unlike wood.
Measuring/Centering entrance hole

Measuring/Centering entrance hole

Drilling entrance hole with a spade bit

Drilling Entrance Hole with a Spade Bit

I also opted for a copper “Predator Guard” as I a squirrel had completely chewed through my last Trex birdhouse that didn’t have this extra protection.  Lastly, I used a hot melt glue gun to make some baby bird “foot hold” the inside. I read somewhere that if it is too slippery the baby birds will not be able to climb out. I figure this will give them some needed traction. I know it seems like I know a lot about birds, but trust me I'm not who you should ask about bird cage covers or anything else bird related, I just really like wood bird houses.
Installing copper predator guard

Installing copper predator guard

Squirrel damage without a predator guard

Squirrel damage without a predator guard

Using hot melt glue to make some foot holds

Using hot melt glue to make some foot holds

I also drilled some drainage holes in the floor (important!).I predrilled all the holes and began assembly with 2.5” galvanized screws.
Drilling drainage holes

Drilling drainage holes

Pre-drilling assembly holes

Pre-drilling assembly holes

Partially assembled

Partially assembled

Net result was very good. I did get a family of Nuthatches to move in (seem to have a pair every year in this same spot) and the house has held up very well to the weather and squirrel attacks.
Complted Trex birdhouse

Complted Trex birdhouse

Rubbermaid Stock Tank Repair

Freeze Crack in my Rubbermaid Stock Tank Bottom

Freeze Crack in my Rubbermaid Stock Tank Bottom

With a half dozen goats, 40 chickens, and 5 turkeys there is always a demand for stock tanks. I have always had good luck with Rubbermaid structural foam stock tanks, as they won’t rust out like galvanized steel stock tanks. However, they are very difficult to repair. I have had a couple of 150 gallon tanks crack in the exact same spot (the curved area in the vicinity of the drain plug). I believe this is caused by ice expansion if they freeze solid (which will easily happen in a New Hampshire winter). I do have a 300 gallon Rubbermaid stock tank that has never cracked in 5 years of tough service.   I think this is because I always keep a stock tank heater in it, and some of the smaller ones I don’t bother (hence the cracking). At any rate, the internet is full of ideas how to repair these. JB Weld is a popular choice, as well as trying to “weld” the plastic. I think Harbor Freight Tools has a plastic welding kit that some folks have used. I tried a repair with a propane torch (to melt the plastic around the crack) and a screwdriver (to smooth the molten plastic). This worked for awhile, but cracked again that same year. This time, I tried a fiberglass repair kit. Using a paint brush, some fiberglass resin and some fiberglass mat, I carefully coated both sides of the crack for a relatively easy repair. Actually my previous attempt at “welding” actually helped roughen the surface to give the fiberglass something to grab on to. So far, my repair is holding, but I have yet to fully test it. I will report back later to let you know how it is holding up.
Fiberglass Repair Materials

Fiberglass Repair Materials

Repairing the Outside

Repairing the Outside

Repairing the Inside

Repairing the Inside

Finished Repair, Holding Up Well So Far....

Finished Repair, Holding Up Well So Far....

Build Your Own Solid Wood Patio Table

I used to buy cheap patio tables from local discount stores. However, I had to constantly keep buying these due to the fact that they invariably rust or fall apart in a only a few years. Another problem is that these cheesy tables are so light… a strong wind will occasionally tip them over (even if the umbrella is down). So, I was looking for something “built to last” that would be heavy enough to resist tipping in a strong breeze. I finally gave up and had to build my own out of PT lumber. I built my first table in 2003, out of ACQ lumber and “DeckMate” lifetime screws (both purchased at Home Depot). Since I was lazy, I just stained this table and left it outside all year ‘round. However, by 2014, this table had significantly deteriorated. I figured PT wood and “lifetime screws” would last a long time. I guess I was wrong…. This rotted out in a bit more than a decade.
The original table rotted out in ten years, despite being made of ACQ PT lumber.

The original table rotted out in ten years, despite being made of ACQ PT lumber.

The corners were significantly rotted. I would imagine water collected in these areas.

The corners were significantly rotted. I would imagine water collected in these areas.

Curiously its twin table (also built in 2003) still seems to be in relatively good shape. Maybe I got a bad batch of PT lumber? Also, I was a little pissed that many of my “lifetime” DeckMate screws dissolved in only 10 years. Some of them did seem in good shape, some okay, and some just literally dissolved in the wood and broke apart when I tried to unscrew them. I contacted Home Depot (via the website) and despite the fact I had no receipt, and purchased them 10 years ago… they gave me a new box with no questions asked! ( I did bring in a sample of my severely rusted screws as “proof” though). The clerk at Home Depot said he has never seen these screws rust before. Hmmm,  I can tell you, I have seen these rust quite a bit, but only in PT lumber.  
10 year-old DeckMate Screws in various stages of decay

10 year-old DeckMate Screws in various stages of decay

Well at any rate, I decided to rebuild my table with micronized copper azole PT (which is reported to be less corrosive to fasteners and longer lasting than ACQ PT), and stainless steel screws this time. While at Home Depot I picked up a few boxes of “Grip Rite” stainless steel screws. They were about $14 a pound if you buy by the pound, but if you buy a 5 pound box, it come out to $12 a pound.  Not too bad for stainless steel I suppose. However, I think Home Depot needs to tell the Chinese factory that makes these to increase the quality control a bit. One box had an empty bag where the “free” drive bit was supposed to be, this one also had a piece of a Chinese newspaper in it. Another box had a big paper clip in addition to the screws… oh well… you get what you pay for.
"Grip Rite" Stainless Steel Screws from Home Depot. Complete with shreds of chinese newspaper and paperclips, but missing one drive bit.

"Grip Rite" Stainless Steel Screws from Home Depot. Complete with shreds of chinese newspaper and paperclips, but missing one drive bit.

  First step in the new table was to cut 4x4 legs. In order to match the other table, I made these 27” tall. If you are going to make one, make sure you can push your existing chairs underneath (i.e. the arms of your deck chairs can clear this height!). Next, I cut some 2X4s about 24” long to frame the table. I screwed these in at an angle, not very strong, but the table “decking” will stiffen this up considerably.
4X4 PT Table Legs

4X4 PT Table Legs

 
PT Table Frame Pieces

PT Table Frame Pieces

Attaching the frame pieces

Attaching the frame pieces

Table completely framed

Table completely framed

The completed table is heavy and awkward to carry… with wet PT, I don’t even think I can lift it. As such, I moved the project outside at this point. I cut 2X6 lumber to make the “decking”. I decided to cut the boards straight instead of at an angle (as with the original table). Although not as decorative, I was hoping that it would help keep water from seeping into the corners of the table (where the other one rotted profusely), and it was easier to cut to boot.
2x6 Table Decking

2x6 Table Decking

Decking Complete

Decking Complete

Next, I cut some 2X6s for the sides and mitered these together. I held the whole thing together with the stainless steel screws (carefully pre-drilling holes for the decking part to avoid splitting as they are close to the edge).
Mitred Side Pieces

Mitred Side Pieces

Here we have the completed table, ready to go.
Solid Wood (PT) Patio Table

Solid Wood (PT) Patio Table

If this one rots out, I will report back, but I am hoping this is the last time I need to rebuild this.

De-CARBing a fuel can

 
New Diesel Can and "EZ Pour Spout" kit.

New Diesel Can and "EZ Pour Spout" kit.

One of the more useless things to come out of Washington in recent years is the mandate to make all gasoline cans “CARB” compliant. “CARB” stands for California Air Resources Board” and is basically California’s answer to air pollution with additional regulations all over the place. While I am all for cleaner air, and I am sure some of the CARB regulations make sense…. And maybe even the specific regulation about gas cans may even make sense. However, what doesn’t make sense is the current design of these cans. They are universally despised by users of gas cans. There are several designs, but all the ones I have seen have one or more of the following attributes: • They don’t allow you to pour gas into a car fuel tank because of the design • They have more moving parts and are cheaply made/not durable • They are too difficult to use: Often requiring multiple twists and turns and holding a heavy can upright longer as they pour much slower (especially for people with some type of disability, this is tough) • They spill everywhere because of all this The net result of all of this is that many people keep their old gas cans in circulation as long as possible. When they do need to upgrade these folks often either remove the “CARB compliant” pouring mechanism and just use a funnel… which probably produces far more gas fumes than the original. I am sure in theory these CARB compliant cans do reduce gas fumes and add a level of safety (including child protection features) but in practice I am willing to be they do not. At any rate, I like to buy full strength anti-freeze and then mix it with water (you know, the old way) rather than buy the pre-mixed stuff at a mark-up (why buy marked up tap water?). I used to like to keep this in gas can, as I like to keep several gallons on hand for the truck and tractor.. When my old anti-freeze can cracked.. I decided to upgrade to a new one. I didn’t want to use a 5 gallon water jug as these are almost universally thin plastic and chintzy. However, it is a real pain to try to pour antifreeze out this out of a new “CARB compliant” can and into a radiator or reservoir. So the only solution was to “De-CARB” a fuel can. Here is how I did it. Firstly, I obtained a nice, thick, diesel can. I chose a diesel can because this will differentiate it easier from my other storage cans (nice yellow). I also obtained an EZ-Pour Universal Replacement Spout Kit from Tractor Supply for 10 bucks, and tire value (2 for 3 bucks). Next, step is to remove that ridiculous “gear wheel “ from the neck of the can.
Removing that weird "Gear Ring" from the neck of the can.

Removing that weird "Gear Ring" from the neck of the can.

A pair of tin snips made short work of this. The kit contains multiple screw tops to fit different style cans. However, I just kept the original screw top as the new pouring spout fit in there nicely.
Installing the pouring spout. This one has a nice screw cap on the end, rather than a snap-on one.

Installing the pouring spout. This one has a nice screw cap on the end, rather than a snap-on one.

  Next step was to take a 5/8 drill bit to drill a hole for the vent. Now the kit comes with a ½ inch plastic vent, but this looks a little frail to me, so I opted for the tire valve.
5/8" drill for the vent hole. Check what size hole you need for your tire valve! I used one for .625 inch (5/8").

5/8" drill for the vent hole. Check what size hole you need for your tire valve! I used one for .625 inch (5/8").

5/8" hole drilled in the top

5/8" hole drilled in the top

After drilling the hole, I made sure I removed all the little plastic bits from inside. Luckily that spade drill gives you mostly one big piece.
Remove all the little plastic bits..don't want those in there!

Remove all the little plastic bits..don't want those in there!

Next, I removed the valve stem from the valve.
Removing Valve stem with a valve stem tool

Removing Valve stem with a valve stem tool

Next, I took some aluminum fence wire (easier to work with than string) to thread the valve into the can. Some tugging eventually seated the tire valve nicely in the hole.
Threading tire valve into the newly drilled hole.

Threading tire valve into the newly drilled hole.

Finished de-CARB-ed can!

Finished de-CARB-ed can!

Viola! A new antifreeze storage can is born. All you need to do is take the valve stem cap off, and pour away to your heart's content!

Lupini Bean windfall!

There was a rare find at Swampy Acres this month via Craigslist. It seems one of our fellow New Hampshirites had purchased tons of dried Lupini beans for a pittance. The story goes  that this man's friend was in the Lupini Bean wholesale business and decided to get out. So, this gentleman bought the whole stock at 4 dollars for each 25 kilogram bag. Now, you might think the average New Hampshire resident can easily use 4,000 pounds of dried beans..... but surprisingly....you would be wrong! Even the typical New Hampshire resident  can't possibly use this many.... So Swampy Acres bought the excess. We got just about 2,000 pounds of Lupini beans for $160 dollars! What do we want a ton of Lupini Beans for? Well, they are 40% protein and make excellent goat food.

Lupini Beans!

Lupini Beans now in the basement

Now the first problem is where to store 2,000 pounds of dried beans. First we tried our "shed in a box." However, we were worried about mice, so we moved the whole mess to the basement.                     Now the next problem is how to feed them to the goats. The beans are hard as a rock. So, I ended up soaking them overnight. Here is a tip, Lupini beans expand about 3 or 4 times if you soak them.. so get a big bucket.

Lupini Beans reconstituted

And the verdict is... the goats love them!!!

Summer 2011 Updates

Well, I have been a bit behind on blog posts. Most of the time we have been busy getting the garden going. This should be the best garden year yet... there will be alot of posts in the coming weeks.

Vegetable Garden 2011

In addition to the garden, we had a ton of separate projects going on that will soon appear on the website. These projects include the following: 1) A new goat pasture.We finally finished clearing about an acre of trees and planted a mixture of orchard and timothy grass, meadow brome, and clovers.

Goat Pasture

2) The electric fence A hundred steel posts, 2 miles of wire and a 2 joule charger and solar panel allowed us to fence in another 3 acres of scrub for the goats.

Electric Goat Fence

3) The tractor 3 point hitch carry-all.With this kit, we can use the John Deere's 3 point hitch to carry a thousand pounds of firewood and other sundries.

Tractor Carry-All

4) The new goat/chicken watering system.Old man winter finally wiped out my old rain barrels, so I had to replace them with a 150 gallon watering trough and piping system.

Goat/Chicken Waterer