Cota Farms' Blog

March 3, 2014

Common Sense and Feeding Your Dogs Raw Meat – Part 3

While transitioning our dogs from having raw ground chicken in their diet and replacing that with leg quarters, we noticed a distinct rejection of the new alternative.  From some of what I have read they should have welcomed this new food.  Half of the dogs just could not seem to get the hang of it, one not even trying.   Our dogs are too important to us to just let this go; had we been thinking wrong?

I have to admit that when I offered this same chicken to the lot of them except this time I roasted it and striped the meat from the bones, they all gobbled it down.  I had even mixed in some old egg noodles.  The only difference from something I might prepare for myself was the lack of seasoning and mixing in the chicken fat.

I don’t know what this means but I am willing to employ a little dispassionate common sense to the problem.  You see the real problem is we tend to invest ourselves in a position we have chosen to take in the past and filter all new data thru the prism of not wanting to admit to being wrong, misinformed, not wanting to change.

In that spirit, I have observed from a number of different dogs, in different sizes and breeds, over several years’ time, that dogs do in fact prefer meat.  Furthermore, they do not as often as one might expect prefer it uncooked.  Also, I have noticed certain beneficial effects of feeding small amounts of cooked rice or pumpkin.  Additionally, there seems to be no ill effects from sometimes feeding macaroni and cheese mixed with a favorite meat.  I use these specific examples because of the enthusiasm in which the dogs eat those meals.

Of course roast chicken is not a balanced diet and we will continue to offer raw meat if for no other reason than to see if they eat it.  We will still feed organ meat as well but no longer ground, sliced instead.  We will offer it raw but if they don’t eat it we will cook it for them.  Our goal is to feed our dogs as best we can, see that they consume at least a minimal amount every day and if that means cooking for them, well, I would do no less for any farm workers we might employ.

December 15, 2013

Micro Trout Farm (3)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Cota Farms @ 4:44 pm
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I’m thrilled to report that the experiment is on track and functioning as intended.  This crude set up performs well even when air temperatures fall into the single digits.  My only concern at this point is that I do not have enough fish in the tanks.  That is not a result of my setup but just plain poverty.  The early winter weather forced us to focus our efforts on caring for the other livestock and we couldn’t continue stocking the tanks.  We should have had several hundred fingerlings by now. Hopefully we can start stocking again after the holidays.

I have noticed that while the water flow is not impeded by the low air temperatures, the air pumps are very much affected by the cold.  In commercial operations aeration is accomplished by means of mechanical agitation of some sort, impellers at the water surface, paddle wheels.  Tank culture is usually done indoors or if outdoors then in warmer climates.  Fortunately as the air temp falls the air density increases making up for at least some of the diminished air flow.  I have a couple ideas on how to fix this problem but the best one is to put a hoop structure over the water conditioner and main tank.  It would be impractical to try and cover all of the tanks because of the fairly steep slope of the ground. It should not be necessary though as most of the air injection is done before the water flows to the downhill tanks.

Another important aspect of air pumps is that they require much less energy to operate than rotating motors.  If larger fish are relocated to the pond though, it would be necessary to add one of these motors there. This is an important point I may have failed to mention.  Once the limits of the system are reach, it would still be possible to increase production rates by using the pond.  The pond also serves as an emergency relief point should all else fail.

While pond culture is common,  for us it is not the best option because harvesting there is a whole other process and is very labor intensive.  We prefer to net the fish from the tanks as needed.  Once the next phase begins this spring, I will be able to determine the actual number or pounds of fish that can be raised with the given water flow rate.IMG_20131210_163301

December 8, 2013

In The Bleak Mid-Winter

That is my favorite Christmas song!  When the population left the land for city living they also left behind their connection to the earth.  Most people now have no idea where their food comes from or what it takes to get it to them.  I have to admit grocery stores seem to be in some sort of magical realm providing all the foods you can imagine, as long as you possess the coin of the realm.  I know what I’m talking about because I too grew up in the city and was oblivious to what went on in the countryside.

When the more modern belief systems replaced what is often referred to as paganism, all reverence for the earth and nature was replaced with the worship of a deity.  Sometimes this deity was just the head of state and then finally a mystical figure that much of the world calls God.  That left a world that became viewed as merely a vessel to hold humans until some prophecy or other took us away or transformed the planet.

The idea that our planet is not just a rock in space but a living organism that sustains us was lost and so there is no need to care for it as if it could be hurt or injured, poisoned or depleted.  Some people began to preach the idea that we are not even part of this world: “we are in the world, not of the world”.  It is no more than a cosmic bus station that we are forced to pass through on our way to something better.

I feel so fortunate to have been able to break away from the thought control that dictated my way of thinking before we came to the land.  Having been there, in the frame of mind that did not allow for other possibilities, I understand that it’s not enough to bring facts and artifacts to others and say you’ve been deceived.  As Morphius said in The Matrix, “you have to see it for yourself”.

There is no better time than in the bleak mid-winter to reconnect with those life forces that sustained us long before emperors became gods and church dogma told us how to think about one another and the world we all live in.  Even the high holy days follow the seasons.Dec2013 030

November 6, 2013

Micro Trout Farm (2)

Once we secured the water source we had to determine how much water we had, the flow rate.  For large scale commercial trout facilities the flow rate is very large, even thousands of gallons per minute.  There are few places in America where that much clean, cold water is available for private use.

Many of us however can have access to smaller volumes of water, perhaps enough to produce fish in sufficient quantities for it to be self-supporting.  A simplified analysis may look like this:  $150 per month for electric to pump water and air; $100 per month for feed; $400 per month replacement stock.  This simplified analysis assumes a up and running project and does not account for any capital investment like the cost of the well and raceway.

So $650 is the monthly cost to produce 400 fish for market.  Another assumption is that the project has been running long enough to produce a marketable item, a 1.5 pound fish.  If we sell 400 fish each month for $7.50 per pound then we net $3850 per month.  More than enough to service any capital investment with some pocket change left over.  OK let’s say my figures are suspect even though they are not that bad and we double our input costs to $1300 per month, still not too bad.  At any rate, it seems to be self-supporting.

This project has brought together all my favorite sciences and opens up a lot of potential new avenues for any other agricultural engineering fans out there.  A few came out to see my prototype; its already had an important modification and is growing trout.  You will notice I am using a variation of the common raceway and tank culture systems.  Both methods have advantages so why not bring them together.  I am also experimenting with different off the shelf tank designs that are readily available for far less than those tanks sold specifically for aquaculture.  Oct27 011

October 6, 2013

Micro Trout Farm

Filed under: Uncategorized — Cota Farms @ 4:02 pm
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This blog will show how we are setting up our small aquaculture business; visit our website for more information.  This isn’t our first attempt at raising fish but this time we are changing our expectations.  Our target production rate is much lower now.

Rainbow trout is one of the finest foods you can get from fresh water!  It’s not something that you can generally find at your local grocer here in Ohio and it is not imported from China.

As with pretty much all meat raised on small farms the biggest obstacle to retailing ones product is processing costs.  This single problem is what thwarted our first two attempts at bringing fresh fish to our farmers market.  Now we will just offer the fish whole.

Things are changing at a faster pace now and not for the good in spite of what the media has been tasked with telling us.  It’s kind of like looking out the window watching the rain fall while the news caster tells you it is warm and sunny outside.  It feels better to believe what you are being told because it is what you want to hear so you just draw the curtain and say yes it is a beautiful day.  We recognize the changes coming and have adjusted our expectations accordingly.  Raising and selling several hundred fish is now good enough!  A profitable farm endeavor has given way to a sustainable one; we are now in survival mode.

A small farm is a very personal thing and cannot be duplicated but you can borrow from those components that fit with what you are doing.  What’s important is the economics, does it work for you?  That will be partly determined by what resources you have available.  Since we are talking about trout, then the most important thing you will need is clean, cold water.

The best way to get this is to own land with a spring on it, the bigger the better.  One reason I am writing this is there seems to be little out there in the way of raising small numbers of trout.  I believe the reason is of course money.  It is the answer to most questions.  Is it possible to raise a few hundred trout a year so that is does not cost more than the value of the fish?

If you own an artesian spring then the answer is easy, yes.  But for the rest of us is it possible?  The first step is securing your water source and for us that meant a deep well.


August 2, 2013

Young Swans At Cota Farms

A rare opportunity came our way this summer and we jumped on it!  We had swans before but lost them largely through inexperience with keeping these majestic birds.  The availability and cost of these birds vary so much it is difficult to price them but from what limited experience we have it was a deal that could not be passed up.  We are not likely to come across so many swans for sale at a price we could afford and distance we could easily travel.

For me having these magnificent birds on our small pond, watching them explore the wetland is a dream comes true, again.  We are very protective of them as we understand we may not get another chance and certainly not without paying much more than we did this time.

They are still young in spite of their size and take several years to mature.  We try to keep them close to the house because it is easier to care for them and protect them but they are drawn to the water and high grasses and get by us when we are not looking.  Fortunately we already have security in place.  We were sure to make introductions to the guard dogs when they got here and the entire farm perimeter is fenced.

Here they are scheming to get past an inner fence.  It did not take them long to discover they could slip through an area that the dogs had made in a fence not yet completed to a pasture in the opposite direction, then go around to get over the hill; they had to travel a long way but they made it.  So now they are where they want to be.  We will have to herd them back up the hill before winter though as it is too difficult to get food to them out there once the snow flies.  swans 017

June 23, 2013

We Like Sheep

Since I have become a shepherd, I have become oh so aware of what it means to be a sheep and it is quite disturbing.  There are too many references in literature liking people to sheep and it is not just a metaphor.  Among the most disturbing references is the idea that the very small group of men that control the world justify what they do because we are just sheep and therefore they have the right and duty to control, care for (whatever word you can stomach) us.  These people have been called various things for hundreds (thousands) of years and it is these very names that help to obscure their existence because these titles have been discredited, relegated to conspiracy theorists so I will not further help their cause by discrediting my own writing by using them.

It is true that we have greater intellect than sheep, and one would think that would be enough to protect us from their fate but I see that it is not true. Intelligence is a relative term and is not synonymous with thought, or the ability to reason or imagine possible future events.

We have been farming for a decade or more now and once again we are making changes to our operation.  This time the changes are more difficult and eerily consistent with what I see in the world around me.  You see we had a period when our flock grew, multiplied even faster than I had worked toward.  We didn’t have enough pasture to support them all but hay prices were such that we were able to supplement what we had.  Last winter changed all of that.  We lost what we thought we had gained because there were too many sheep and the price of hay increased so much we could no longer buy it.  And of course, not being alone in this predicament meant that the price we could get for our sheep dropped very low at the same time.

We are now culling our flock.  That is an interesting word, cull.  It is not used much in the cities but history teaches us that there will come a time when that word will have greater meaning to the population at large.  I remember when the Chinese government implemented its one child rule and other self-righteous countries like ours said what a terrible thing it was.  As a shepherd I very well understand the importance of controlling population, now more so than ever.

I know that most of us do not accept the idea of controlling the growth of the population unless we are controlling the growth of a certain group of people that don’t look like us.  This is often just dismissed as racism but I believe it is even more than that.  So then is it true that if we do not take responsibility for our own population growth we are just sheep and then it is left to others to deal with the situation?

Of course the powers that be have a way of dealing with this type of thought as well, once again relegating these ideas to the realm of conspiracy theorists.  They are very cleaver in how they go about it, using the classical argument of reducing these ideas to the absurd.  For example, these unnamed powers will harvest human beings for replacement organs maybe even bring aliens from outer space into the story.   Once you get people to laugh at the pure ridiculousness of the idea then the small amount of truth in the story is dismissed along with the rest of it.  Brilliant!

Maybe some of use will get a reprieve, much like this ewe that was a bottle baby and now enjoys a hands off status as beloved petrrr

May 22, 2013

Therapy Dogs

I have wondered about this for some time now.  I have heard so much…incorrect information about Therapy Dogs and their certification.  It is even more confusing as there are so many supposed therapy dog training organizations out there and the laws governing them are different in each state.  I decided to get the skinny and be done with it.  I suspected money was involved somewhere particularly since there does not seem to be a medical billing code for therapy dogs.

This next part will make me some enemies or rather it would if anyone actually read my blog.  I think I’m safe.  There really is no such thing as a therapy dog.  This whole thing with dogs has legitimacy only because of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  This federal law says that if you have a “service dog” you and your dog may not be denied access.  So what is a service dog?  Well that does not seem to be as important as how to get one and the only legal way to get one is with a prescription.  If your problem is all in your head then you can get a prescription for that too from your shrink and you can call him an “emotional comfort dog”, not a therapy dog.

There is even a law about what happens if you claim to have a service dog and she is not.  I imagine this is more about whether you have a legal script rather than the qualifications of the dog.

So then what does it mean when you see these “therapy dogs” walking around with their vest and patches attesting to their kind intentions?  It simply means that someone has spent time working with the dog and allows others to enjoy their company, probably for tips and treats.  If they are lucky they have found a nursing home or maybe even a hospital that will allow them to visit.  But I have to ask myself why?  I can’t imagine tips coming close to paying for the insurance.

May 16, 2013

Everything All The Time

Filed under: Uncategorized — Cota Farms @ 9:34 pm
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I remember when I first noticed those words while listening to an Eagle’s song, “…everything all the time…”.  Since then they have grown in meaning to me.  So much of the wisdom in the world that floats around goes unnoticed and not understood until you are ready to checkout.  Seems cruel, it doesn’t really do you much good at that point.  Although it is true that many of us don’t ever really get it.

Lately the meaning has for me begun to address more than just a danger for individuals but our whole culture, our society.  Our economy requires ever increasing consumption which means ever increasing production of whatever those in marketing can get us to purchase.  This makes for a disposable economy.  Nothing is ever meant to satisfy or serve a purpose for longer than it takes to make the next item.

Thrift stores are full of clothing and just stuff that is newer than most of what I own.  Sometimes when I shop in these stores I am shocked at what I find there, is it a mistake, how can it be?  Someone just bought this, by my time frame  and could find no other use for it than to give it away.  Did they decide to do without or simply buy the newer version?

What has really forced these notions into my mind, made me write this down, is business, or rather my attempt at making our business work.  There is so much of everything out there, at least in this country, that it hardly makes any sense to start a business for any product or service.  If you live in a good size city you will find anything you want offered by a number of businesses.

There are more houses than there are people to live in them or people to buy them.  If you bought a house a couple years ago it now makes sense economically to walk away from it and buy a better one for less money.  If this were not true there would not be so many rules in place to keep people from doing just this even though many do.

Of course part of the problem is this negative feedback effect of ever increasing consumption.  The companies want to make more money so they have to sell more products and to sell more products you have to lower the price so more people can buy it.  To do this you must lower the cost of production which means in many cases lowering the cost of labor which means in many cases deceasing wages and the number of employees.  Some of the now unemployed workers start new companies further increasing the supply of products or services in the market place.

OK, enough whining, so what to do.  Well for us that means leaving behind these notions of building a small business so that we can make enough money to be financially secure, ain’t gonna happen. Don’t get me wrong, people do start small businesses and build empires, and they win millions in the lottery too.  Young men do play professional sports and become rich and famous and people are miraculously cured from cancer.  So that’s ten people.  And another ten are just lucky.  That leaves…several others.

Being a farmer I naturally thought well hey people will always eat; can’t have too much food after all people are starving in Africa or some place.  Boy was that wrong.  Here in America you can buy 2000 calories for $2, not considering the quality of the calories.  The best farmer’s markets have waiting lists to get in, as a vendor.  Last year I saw local, fresh, heirloom tomatoes at the farmers market for less money than the insipid things that pass for tomatoes at the grocery store!  What does that mean?  Strawberries in February for less than the cost of bottled water!

But all is not lost.  I think that farming will eventually become a very serious and important occupation.  Well, it is already serious and important, just not respected because food doesn’t come from farms, it comes from grocery stores.  Not being sure of anything else, I am certain that things cannot continue on as they are now and food will once again come from farms.

April 28, 2013

How the Internet Lost its Soul

Filed under: Uncategorized — Cota Farms @ 2:49 pm
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As the internet started to become this incredible tool it also became just another device which only purpose is to make money for those in control.  To be sure the transformation is not yet complete and there is still a battle but it is waged mostly by pirates at this point.  Once they are subdued there will be no one left to fight and the internet will be fully just another medium used to sell products and services to whoever pays for the opportunity to be marketed to.

I remember when having your own webpage was potentially a powerful thing.  Now a webpage is invisible unless you pay money so that it will show up in a search.  Of course if you know the exact name of the website you are searching for you can just type it in but we know that is not generally how it is done.  We do searches for things not webpages specifically and let the “search engine” choose for us what we will see.

I am very disappointed that after all the study and time involved to build our webpage that it mostly goes unseen because I refuse to pay the gatekeeper extortion money.  Even if you do a search that calls for one of our products and give the city and even though no one else has any products matching the description within the city, we will not show up in the search results.  To make matters worse, what does come back in the search results is hundreds of sites that have nothing or little to do with what you were looking for but these sites did pay.

This is not just a problem for me and people like me but everyone else that uses the internet, it is a great disservice.  I am not advocating regulating the internet; that would only make it much worse.  But I don’t believe that the average user truly understands that they are being herded toward an area that serves the “owners” of the internet rather than showing them what they are looking for.

For now we must make do with trying to get our information onto other websites that serve as a listing of companies that do certain things like provide raw dog food or specialty eggs.

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