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Building Unity Farm - The Heat of Summer

Posted Jul 11 2013 6:00am

In 2013, Boston had a wet spring and is having a very hot, humid Summer.   The 90 degree temps with
90% humidity typical of August arrived in June and July.   Last weekend, the discomfort index rose to 107F as temps soared to 93 with nearly 100% humidity for 5 successive days.

 Alpaca and Llama live in the Andes and are accustomed to dry, cold weather.  Great Pyrenees live in the alps and prefer cold snowy conditions.   Our chickens are optimized for the cold winters of the Northeast.  How do we care for a group of animals which would be happier in the Arctic than the tropics when the temperature feels like 107F?

 I wrote about water management last week and the various ways we have of keeping our paddocks and pastures moist.   Those same low flow rotors keep the alpacas cool in Summer.  Just as children run through sprinklers and gushing fire hydrants to cool off in Summer, the alpaca flock to flowing water, rolling in it, sitting on it and reveling in the cool of a water soaked belly.   Once they're drenched they roll in fine dusty soil to create a cooling layer of mud on their fiber.

Last year we mounted large barn fans in each stall and the animals compete for prime airflow spots.

We have 5 gallon buckets of fresh water hanging through the barn and paddock areas.

The chicken coop has a shaded 20x20 outdoor run, a large barn fan, two water supplies and windows to keep air circulating.

The dogs are a bit tougher.   We gently spread water on their heads and faces, but Great Pyrenees are not drawn to swimming.   Instead they dig wallows (pictured above) in the shadiest areas of the paddock.   The soil around the irrigation rotors is soft and moist.  They dogs dig foot deep dog sized holes and curl up in them to stay cool.   They have morning wallows and afternoon wallows, changing location as the sun tracks through the sky and alters shade patterns.

The bees work hard to keep the hives cool.   This week we added "supers" - a second story to the hives which provides an "attic" of insulation over the primary hive.   We keep a rock filled basin topped off with water nearby so they can access hydration.  Worker bees sit at the entrance to the hive and keep the entire colony cool by flapping their wings in unison, creating a natural fan.

The mushroom farm is in the shade house underneath a grove of pines, out of the heat of direct sunlight.

 For the humans, we recently pressure washed the 18 year old air conditioning compressors and replaced all the filters in the air handlers, so we're cooling the bedrooms as efficiently as we can.   In future years, we'll likely replace the air conditioners with heat pump technology.  Today's most advanced heat pumps match the efficiency of geothermal at a fraction of the cost.

This is our second heat wave of 2013.   So far, all the animals of Unity Farm have enough options to stay cool enough, if not perfectly comfortable.   I look forward to the cooler weather forecasted for next week.   Now that we've lived at Unity for every season, we're ready for whatever nature may bring.

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