Building a Walk-In Freezer

Our Berkshire hogs are getting close to time to process. Pre-Order yours today, as the price per lb is much lower than they are retail. We need a place to store all the meat (over a ton!), so we are building a walk-in freezer. We got the condenser and fan from a generous arrangement with Black Warrior Brewing Company. Thanks Jason!!! We prepped the spot by determining what level the concrete forms needed to be at to make a flat surface. Our good friend Ben Ballenger came out and helped us do that.IMG_3502

Once we knew where the forms needed to be (made out of 12 x 2 boards), we had to move tons of fill dirt in. Sometimes I feel like all we do is move tons of material from here to there.

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Once we got the fill dirt in, we added 3-4 inches of gravel on the bottom everywhere (more tons).

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IMG_3548We decided upon the advice of counsel that we should hire a concrete finisher. Having no experience with concrete finishing, we bit the bullet and did this. Here is the concrete truck backing up to the site.

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Our finishers got the concrete out in no time. Notice the cattle wire fencing we are using in place of rebar. You need metal in the concrete to help it deal with pulling pressures.

We put a drain in through one side of the slab.

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We put a light broom finish on it, so when it gets wet we don’t slip and fall.

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The finished product is impressive!

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For the panels, we had found a deal for free panels on craigslist. We get a large load of those. We decided after much tribulation that the freezer needed to be of a higher quality. So we went back to the same place and bought one that was intact.

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It was a deli freezer at a Harris Teeter. It took us two days of hard work to put the puzzle together.

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We had to take half of it down and start over after day 1 since we didn’t have instructions. We are so pleased with the final results. It is huge! We will have 800 cubic feet of freezer space once the electrician hooks it up next week.

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Spring Garden Prep

Spring is coming! We received a new WWOOFer week before last, Rachel. She will be spending the whole year with us, so we are very excited!

We are putting the garden in a new location this year. The soil is better, and we can see it from the house. If you attended our wedding and sat on the right side, you sat where the garden is now. To prepare for the new site, we went through a few months of rotating chickens and composting on site with spent brewers grain, leaves, and old hay. This really added a lot of fertility to the site. The area where the chickens had been was so green and lush vs where they had not been.

An unusual dry spell got me hoping the ground was dry enough for me to plow, disc, and till. Here is the ground broken and waiting to be worked into a fine soil.

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Here is a shot from the top of the hill. Notice the pallets at the forefront. That will be an awesome fence later. We used the subsoiler to dig a trench for water and power lines. We are going to use the garden as the center hub on our spoke system for rotational grazing, so we will put water and power every 100 feet around the garden perimeter.


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Here are the WWOOFers helping guide me as we lay down the plastic mulch we use.The mulch allows us to reduce water use by upwards of 70%! This is because the drip tape is underneath the mulch. It also prevents weeds from coming up. It looks like a lot but it is actually fairly thin. The whole field worth of plastic would fit into a small trashbag when all pulled up cleanly.

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We left a few spots without plastic. We are experimenting with using different types of mulch this year. We are taking soil samples at the beginning of the year and noting what soil life (nematodes, bacteria, fungi, etc.) we have at the beginning of the year, in the height of the growing season, and at the end of the year. We want to know what mulching system creates the best soil life.

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Finally the WWOOFers spread a few tons of wheat straw between the rows. We learned the hard way last year that trying to use a living mulch between the plastic mulch is a recipe for heartache. This is pleasant to walk on and will create more organic matter for next season. Great work, guys!

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But what all to put in there? Well Allison and Rachel have really been busy the last few weeks. They have started over 4,000 new baby plants!!! So far we have many heirloom and traditional varieties of Broccoli, Cauliflower, Arugula, Celosia, Butterfly Weed, Zinnias, Nasturtium, Cumin, Chives, Echinacea, Basil, Cabbage, Eggplant, Peppers, and Tomatoes.

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January is in the books!

This month has flown by! The daffodils are starting to creep up out of the ground, and the transplants are getting started this week. Spring will be here before you know it.

We hosted our first WWOOFer, Juliette from France, for a few weeks. She got here at 10 pm and it was 16 degrees, so our plumbing froze and she immediately had to got to work with Jesie adding hay to the pigs and chickens so they could keep warm. She stayed with us a few weeks and really helped us get tons accomplished.

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Now we have Christian from Jacksonville, FL and Allison from California and Oregon here. They are awesome, with two great senses of humor. Here they are spreading manure. We couldn’t ask for two better farmhands.

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We were excited to get our seeds in! We ordered mostly from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange this year. Check em out!  http://www.southernexposure.com/vegetables-c-3.html

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We have switched feed companies and now buy exclusively non-GMO feed out of North Alabama. We went and picked up our first few tons last week and had some space on the trailer, so we threw on a few tons of wheat straw. We are going to use those to mulch between our rows this year.

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Lastly, these pigs are getting huge!! The wet weather means their feeding area has gotten mucky mucky. They have nice paddocks, but those 180-pound animals with razors for feet have done a number on the feeding area.

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