Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Simple, Cheap, Hydroponics on the farm a subset of hydroculture and is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without soil. Terrestrial plants may be grown with their roots in the mineral nutrient solution only or in an inert medium, such as perlite, gravel, biochar, mineral wool, expanded clay pebbles or coconut husk. Or at least that is what Wikipedia says!
That Definition is good but it sounds expensive so my translation is... Growing food in pipes with fertilized water. That sounds a little more do-able to the self reliant farmer! The system that I am going to show you is a blend of two other system types. I am using an Aeroponics type plant support and drain with the top feeding system similar to a Dutch bucket.  There are many videos online that show similar systems.
This is my beginning parts pile, I know it looks like a lot but when I was shopping for all this I kept the budget in mind. All these parts I got at Lowes. My local Home depot has the plumbing parts but not the irrigation stuff.
The Pipe I used is 4" plastic drain pipe it is much less expensive than 4" schedule 40 pvc pipe. For this little project I need 2 pieces of pipe 36" long, lucky for me I have some of this stuff laying around so I did not have to buy it!
 The pipe on the left of these two pictures is what we are going to make. It is really simple with a few tools.
I measured my pipe and marked the center, 18" then I measured from the center 5" to the left and 15" to the left. Then repeated the measurements to the right of center. You should have 4 marks each 10" on center. If you look closely at the marks above you will see that the center mark has a circle around it...that does not go there! Whoops!

I used my corded drill and a 2" hole saw for these holes.

Carefully center the bit...

 Go slow, take your time..

One done! Three more to go...

There we are, all drilled and ready for the next step...

I cleaned up the holes with a razor knife, I had plastic burrs on both the inside and outside, it all needs to come off because later in this setup we will have a pump circulating water and we do not want to plug the pump up with plastic shavings!
Now to make the second end cap, I used my trusty corded drill and a 7/8" spade bit for boring holes in wood.
I started the hole on the inside using a piece of scrap pipe to make sure I was not to close to the outer edge... after the hole was drilled i cleaned it up and enlarged it with a razor knife.
Then I put the heat to it! I just needed to soften the plastic not really melt it...

After it is softened up, I screwed the fitting into the end cap and let it cool.

Now that all the drilling is done the system starts to come together pretty quick,
Next we will construct the "Drain Manifold"
This is simple, (2) 4" pieces of 3/4" pipe, (4) 2" pieces of 3/4" pipe, (4) 90 degree elbows and a tee. Simple right? If not, make it look like this...

I said it would shape up quick didn't I? Now that is all set and dry assembled we can move on to the irrigation side of things, We will seal all the white plastic as we set it in its final resting spot.
I am going to start with the bigger pipe. it is 1/2" irrigation line from Lowes. I cut a piece off the roll that is 36" long.  I attached the 1/2" line  to the table with some duct tape and screws to hold it straight then I plugged one end.

I used Teflon tape to seal the threaded end. and a hose clamp for the hose to the black fitting.

Now I am cutting 8 pieces of the smaller irrigation line to 10" long. Each line will feed one cup in the system.
The 1/2" line needs holes in it for the individual cup feed lines I need four sets of holes about 10" apart, I bought the tool that is sold at Lowes with the irrigation parts to make the holes.
 The instructions to use the tool are on the inside of the package, it was easy to use and it saved a lot of wear and tear on my fingers!

Put the part in the tool, and then the hose onto the part...the tool adds leverage.

Then you turn the whole operation around and put the tube in the tool and again it adds leverage to get the fitting into the holes in the 1/2" pipe!

 The adjustable drippers go onto the other end of the small lines and into each little net pot.
My system is looking almost complete! all that is missing is a fountain pump, an air pump and plants! But we will wait for all that until next time! I have started some lettuce in peat pots and some in Rockwool, when the plants are big enough to transplant I will pick up where I have left off!
Please feel free to leave questions and comments below!
May GOD bless you All! 


Monday, January 20, 2014

Making Butter on the Farm

We try to teach good stewardship of everything we are given in life to our family. Our family milk cow "Dolly" Gives us just one of these teaching moments! Dolly gave us a heifer (girl) calf  last fall and we started milking her at that time, It is a really BIG commitment to be at the barn at 6am and 6 pm EVERY day! So you can see that we do not want to waste any of what Dolly provides for us, Which is about 1.5 gallons of milk twice every day! That is a LOT of milk! We cannot consume that much so we have to find other uses, we have made ice cream, some cheese, milk wine and a family favorite BUTTER. Dolly is a Jersey cow so about 25% of the milk she gives us is heavy cream -perfect for butter making! So with all that background we should get to making some butter. Emmy, Our oldest Child is in charge of the dairy cow at age 15, She is the one who made this butter for us.
The Kitchen-aid mixer on the right is what we use to make our butter in, It is the 8 quart commercial model, on the left is our old 4 quart model after 15 years of service we are sending her to semi-retirement, she will get a little TLC and become our back-up mixer.
Moving on to the next step with a clean mixing bowl and The wire whisk attachment we add no more than 3 quarts of heavy cream to the 8 quart mixing bowl.
During our learning curve with butter making on this scale, we found the you have to have a lid to make butter in a kitchen-aid! We made ours from a piece of corrugated plastic that we picked up at home depot.
The plastic cover helps a lot with the splatter of butter making. The cream is in the bowl with the whisk on and bowl covered, Now we crank it up to 5 or 6 and let it go! Depending on the temperature of the cream, the volume of the cream and the mooood of the cream will tell you how long it will take to become butter. The cream should not be ice cold or it will take longer, But when it starts to look like this...

You have made whipped cream! (if you add confectioners sugar to sweeten it you can put a dollop on your pie!) Whipped cream is the last thing you see before butter comes...
Once the butter arrives we like to drain off the buttermilk, and change to the paddle. This helps to remove more of the buttermilk from butter.
When the butter has given up most of its liquid it is time to separate the buttermilk from the butter, To do this we will need 2 bowls and a piece of butter cloth. (we use a piece of 100% nylon sheer curtain that was cut to size and hemmed, the butter does not stick to it very much IF you Don't squeeze it!)

Let your butter drain and then it goes into its own bowl, without the butter cloth.
Now the butter needs worked so it will release more buttermilk, We do this with a bamboo rice paddle and/or an antique butter paddle.  Firmly pressing the butter to the sides of the bowl will release the extra liquid, this step really improves the texture of the butter!

 Now that all the buttermilk has been remoooved we add a touch of salt to our butter,
 We add about 1/4 teaspoon to each 1/2 pound of finished butter, this batch was just over a pound and a half so 3/4 of a teaspoon will do just fine!
 We use small freezer bags to store the butter, I will let Emmy show you how it is done!

That is all there is to making your own homemade butter! Now I will answer a few Questions about REAL butter,
  • Yes that is the color of natural butter, no coloring was added at any step
  • Yes that is how thin real buttermilk is- non cultured real buttermilk is naturally low fat
  • The color of the butter will change according to what the cow is eating, the breed of the cow and how long she has been milking.
  • You can make butter in a mason jar with store bought heavy cream, just shake -it up!
  • You do not have to add salt to your butter, that is just our preference.
If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them in the comments box at the bottom of the page!
and Thank-you Emmy for your butter making pictures!
May GOD bless you All!