Sinking Egg Mobile...
This is the second of a new series where we post things that don't go to plan on the farm. Life here at Ridgedale is amazing, establishing a pioneering project in this beautiful land with incredible folks coming from around the world to contribute their unique gifts, strengths and talents in an intensive & caring learning environment. As with any farm or project of this nature, things are not always smooth. In todays world of image saturated social media its mostly polished images and what is going well for folks that is shared. We're here to serve as a unique and potent learning site as well as a productive farm and so we feel it is our responsibility to share the sides often hidden from the public eye as well as all the rest. This is where learning really happens, this is where the creative solutions swell up so naturally in everyone committed to be of benefit and frankly we need more of it. When things die or get sick, break or cause shocking unintended consequences, this is where deep learning can occur. The challenges and failures are equally meaningful and stimulating as the frequent triumphs and amazement that goes on in this place. We just love it. The total openness with which we run this place, from sharing our business, decisions, perspectives and personal lives with out Interns and training participants is one very clear aspect of what makes this place so special. We hope sharing these experiences will be of benefit to those of you who follow our activities from around the world. We also hope it inspires more to write up and share their challenges & failures; it's a great way we can serve each other...
Rainbows over happy hens look all great don't they?! Our Egg Mobile 350 build went well this winter. We had the design objectives of a portable house for a flock of up to 350 hens that would cost us Eur 2500 to build (inc. a mobile feeder & auto waterer) weighed less than 1000 kg and could be moved through our sloping Silvopasture lanes by ATV. We came in on budget and weighing in at about 900kg. The wettest coldest spring in decades made conditions intense for people, plants & animals and our brave May PDC participants had to endure the worst of it. Amazing group they were, resilient, engaged & a lot of deep (un)learning to start the season with a bang. One aspect of morning farm chores is working with the different animal systems. We have teams that take care of Food & Hygiene, Shared Spaces, Gardening, Foraging wild foods, Cows & Sheep, Broilers and the Egg Mobile. We like to share responsibility for each others wellbeing in this way, as well as learn & participate in the diverse things happening daily at the farm. A LOT can happen in a week here.
Our 3 main fields have totally different characteristics, and at the time of the May PDC the Egg Mobile was in Front Field which is heavy clay (compared to pure sand/ silt in the top of Top Field) This whole area was underwater/ ice once and we see the evidence of this in the varied terrain & soil characteristics. With the incredible rains we have been having the hens can make a real impact in a day with so many feet working relentlessly in their classic one leg then the other scratch, scratch, peck as they search out greens and insects. With such wet ground in this heavy clay field the affect is to bring up clay onto the vegetation and create some amount of compaction through the laying out of clay particles.
I'm able to move the Egg Mobile/ Mobile Hopper feeder/ automatic waterer & fence alone in 20- 25 mins in fair weather but during this weird May I ended up needing to enlist the help of some generous morning pushers! One problem is the Rhino we use has too much power and not enough weight so it can dig a hole quite quickly in these conditions. Another problem was the Egg Mobile (built on an old car chassis) only had single wheels which easily sank in the unusually wet ground. Thankfully this happened after a bunch of folks arrived at the farm. The first 2 weeks on the field gave me no problems and so it was quite surprising seeing how spring decided to develop. Sure, we could add weights to the Rhino but that's not so practical as we use this for all sorts of functions regularly. We also want to minimize impact of the ground primarily.
Thankfully, we're dedicated to finding positive solutions left, right & center. No big problems here, only opportunities to learn, design, experiment & monitor. And that's what it's all about after all. Getting creative with the new Intern group having a couple of days spare before Holistic Managing training we decided to recycle my old Volvo that we crashed on sheet ice over the winter narrowly avoiding serious injury. It was a beautiful old car and I'm super happy the wheels are now holding up the Egg Mobile. To cut a long story short we had to engineer double wheels as we had a trailer with Ford hubs (wheels are secured with nuts not bolts) With nifty farm hack gusto we utilized Yohanna's old Skoda brake disks to create flat plates to bolt the curved rims together using spacers and mounted the new double wheels.
It has been going SUPER smooth since we attached these double wheels. We have had our Salmonella test back for both the layers & all broiler chickens and we're all clear (Sweden has ZERO tolerance and a positive result would mean an instant flock cull) the eggs are coming out clean (we have to have a certified Egg Packery to sell to restaurants and shops, cleaning with liquid is not allowed) the birds are happy and the Egg Mobile no longer sinks. For comparison, the image below shows the tracks from the Egg Mobile passing through the wettest part of the field with double wheels (would have sunk 20cm deep with the single wheels here) Nice work team! LOVE working together on epic things...
We know some folks have been interested in the more details of the build, dimensions, considerations, choices, etc. We will write this up in detail too, but that will be a really long post and we're super busy farming & educating double full time right now so thanks for your patience.
If you appreciate our open honest sharing and have ever considered starting a Pastured Broiler Enterprise then check out our Chickstarter Campaign. We're offering super low cost comprehensive online training to decide if E Learning is beneficial enough to consider getting deeper into....
If you love what we do here and need to kickstart your own learning then check out our Aug- Sept 8 Week Internship, frankly there's nothing like it. We also have an upcoming 2 Day Farm Scale Permaculture & Regenerative Ag weekend intensive at the farm end of July if you can't make it for longer.
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