Side Projects

Fun With Lidar and Local Lore: Sinkholes!

I decided to have a bit of fun to further research a bit of unsubstantiated lore regard the karst land I will be farming. The previous owner mentioned that local lore told that one of the many sinkholes on the farm opens to a 20′ x 10′ cavernous room.

Here is the raw LiDAR:

Raw Lidar

 

Not much is visible. So when I clip it down so the elevation range is smaller, feature become a bit more apparent:

Clipped LiDAR

However, creating a hillshade layer applies illuminated shadows to the hillshade relief makes the sinkholes pop!

Hillshade

I have no idea how to go about exploring the sinkholes even if I wanted to, but I had fun finding them digitally!

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General Pasture

Fencing Phases

Goats are awesome and I require a few on any farmstead operation I undertake. They are fun, have a lot of personality and provide awesome milk! I only want enough to provide milk and occasional meat to myself. However they are also quite adventurous and have a reputation for escape artistry. Consequently, fencing matters are complicated by goats.

Ideally I would like to run the goats and cows together to reap the benefits of multispecies farming. The goats will remove woody and broadleaf plants from the pasture while cattle turn the solar energy capture by grasses into protein! Since the pasture has been unmaintained, there will be plenty of work for the goats whose salary will be a feast of heavy populations of immature trees and brushy areas.

Fencing will be done in two phases. Phase 1 will serve the needs of permanent and temporary fencing for the cattle while providing the goats with their own movable electric net fencing. At lease the cattle will trample whatever plants they don’t like but I would like to let the goats harvest that biomass. The major difference with Phase 1 alone will be that the permanent electric fences contain only 2 wires. One or two wires will be use for the temporary paddock boundaries.

Phase 2 will accommodate the mixed goat-cow heard by upping the wire count to 5 (or more). The electric fence netting will be used as the temporary fencing for the mixed herd.

Eventually I would like to rebuild the permanent parameter fence for a big of escapee containment insurance.

My main concern is predation of the goats when separated from the cattle…and even when the herds are mixed. If coyotes prove to be an issue, we can have a vote when the time comes: llama, donkey, mule, guardian dog?

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General Pasture

Calculating Fencing Costs

Full digitization of fence lines and posts in GIS software makes the basic calculations simple. GIS provides geometry of the digital features including fence length:

Total Length of Permanent Fencing

(In “Sum” field)

FenceLength

Also determined by GIS, I have 26 wooden corner posts and 162 steel line posts in the full phase fence plans. Breaking it down to Phase 1-only shows a need of 23 wood and 119 steel posts.

Those figures alone let me derive most of the other materials needed in simple excel formulas. For example, each wood post requires insulators for both the spark and ground wires, while the leaving the steel posts uninsulated to the ground wire acts to ground it! However I am still trying to research if it is desirable to only leave the steel posts uninsulated at specific intervals. I am also debating if I need to install a gate at every paddock. For now the last question is factored in as affirmative.

For Phase 1 Fencing:

Fence Calc P1

Now with 3 wires added for phase 2 plans, the calculations are as follows:

Fence Calc P2

Other than buying the animals themselves, this should be the biggest investment I have to make!

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Bees

Siting the First Beehive

An unintended use for the LiDAR data has been made apparent. During my research for beginning beekeeping, I found the consensus among beekeepers was to locate hives where they receive morning sun and afternoon shade. I have not found a scientific source for this so I won’t go into the justifications just yet.

Using the LiDAR data in GIS software, I can create hillshades that show where sun reaches the ground at various points in the day as well as aspect maps. Aspect is the direction the land faces. Using hillshades and verifying with aspect, I found a good spot for the first hive plus solid locations for other hives!

Morning Sun:

HillShadeMorning

Afternoon Sun:

HillshadeAfternoon

Aspect Map with 3D Trees

3dTreesAndAspect

Note that the trees will cast shadows to the NorthEast in the afternoons!

For the initial hive, I chose a small, SouthEast facing clearing in the woods. The sun exposure factors are correct and they will have peace from livestock, laboring farmer and equipment back in the forest. My plan is to grow a perennial, spring food plot in the clearing to give nursing Doe nutrition for their fawns. Clover and Chicory will be the most likely seed (and the only seed I will plant outside of gardens) so hopefully the bees can find enough food year-round with the forest, pasture, vegetable gardens and food plots!

Decision is made!

BeeHiveSite

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Chicks

Modelling the HenMobile

Eggs will be a useful and economical byproduct of pasture sanitation. The chickens will follow the cow rotation on a 5 day delay to allow fly eggs to be laid and hatched in the cow manure. In order to get to their nutritious meal, the chickens will scratch and fling the manure. First this process distributes the manure so the cows can re-graze the entire paddock upon pasture regeneration. The nutrients in the manure are broadcast so they build soil more evenly opposed to inundating patches with the acute manure piles. Lastly, the scattering of manure helps to break and prevent pathogen growth cycles.

My mobile chicken house will provide water, shade during the day and predator protection at night when the chickens are enclosed within. Half inch, 19 gauge hardware cloth will let excrement fall through further fertilizing the pasture while keeping snakes and predators out. Water will be provided via an old 6.5 gallon bottling bucket retired from brewing beer. Via gravity, a short length of hose will feed water to nipples on a pvc pipe. The nesting boxes will be accessible from the outside for easy egg retrieval.

I have not decided on a trailer base for the henmobile, so I put it on a generic 4×8 utility trailer for reference. There are no structural considerations in my model yet. Without further ado, here is the hen mobile modelled in Sketchup!

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Garden

Siting Vegtable Garden

To get the most from the relatively small farm, a greenhouse will be built for season extension and to winter the laying chickens while they fertilize the garden (more on this later!). Ideally this will be in a South or Southeast facing location in the barnyard. Unfortunately, the only south facing slop in my pasture is covered in trees. Good news for the wild deer and my goats, but bad news for veggies. So I will work with what I have!

Aspect Map of Barnyard Created from LiDAR Data

AspectGarden

The east facing exterior of the barn looks like a great location. The downward slope to the road in the pasture provides a good location to build a raised bed that will slowly accumulate soil as the farm builds it.

Garden Location:

gardenLocation

The next step is to plan the rows. Avoiding soil compaction when tending to the plants limits the row width to four feet. Incorporating the 2-foot aisles for foot traffic resulted in parallel lines spaced 6 feet apart. The result is shown below

Garden Rows Mapped

GardenRows

Now to plan the vegtables themselves!

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