3/20/09

Pictures

As promised I am now adding pictures. Caitlin just got our camera so I am able to share some photos. First, here are a couple of pictures of the chicken housing:



And some of the chickens:





3/18/09

Seedlings

We Started some seeds already, actually about 2 weeks ago. I started some tomatoes that I am going to graft. I am using Maxifort as the root stock and am using buffalo as the fruit stock (typical choices). I am also going to experiment with grafting some Sunkist and Persimmon tomatoes as the fruit stock. In case you are wondering why do this at all, tomato grafting imparts the tomatoes with disease resistance and higher fruit yields. The Maxifort plants have wonderful disease resistance and produce about twice the yield of other tomato varieties, however they product terrible tasting tomatoes.


Maxiforts after 2.5 weeks


We also started celery, celeriac, and a few varieties of onions. The bulk of our planting will happen in about a month, at least everything we are going to transplant. In order to do that we need to build the green house, which is the next major project now that the chickens are settled.

3/4/09

It begins...again

Well, I am going to try and start writing regularly about this years farming. Caitlin and I are actually starting our own farm. It is going to be very small scale (maybe the equivalent of 5-10 CSA shares). We have big plans for the year, well plans anyway. The first order of business for us is to get a flock of hens. We decided to buy some 5 month old hens rather than raising chicks. This is because they will start laying soon (some already are), and because the expense of raising them from chicks makes it nearly the same start-up cost. We have spent a lot of money on start-up costs for the vegetable part of our farm and it made sense to have a product to start selling soon. If we had raised them from chicks, we would not have eggs until late-Aug, and the initial costs would have been similar. We are going to complete build housing for them next week, and then pick them up Sat. or Sun after next. We will be getting White and Barred Rocks, a Buff Orpington, some Welsummers, some New Hampshire Reds, and a few Wyandottes (I will add some pictures once we get them). I also started some seeds (tomatoes, celery, and celeriac) but I will write about that later.

6/8/08

Long time, no write

I haven't written in quite some time now, obviously. I am enjoying the farm and learning lots about growing. Caitlin and I setup a raised bed in front of the camper and we are going to be planting a small herb garden. Also, Friday I met a guy who is going to let me dig up some hops on his property so I can plant them. The last things going in our garden are three tomato plants, mainly for canning.

5/10/08

First Week

Today is the end of the first week on the new farm. I love it there. I am having a great time and actually learning how to farm. We spent most of the week seeding trays and transplanting to larger containers. Also, we have been assembling some new greenhouses.

I am so much happier at this farm. I enjoy the work pace and load, we work 8:30-5 and are generally busy but not hectic. I don't have the head to write now so I will write again soon.

5/4/08

Well, I finished at the last farm and am going to be starting on the new farm tomorrow. My experience at the last one ended on a good note and I am excited to be starting at the new one. Caitlin and I used the weekend to move into the new farm, we are living in a camper there. I will write more about the new place later when I can include some pictures.

This entry is going to be about my last experience on the old farm. I spent the last week researching and then building a mobile chicken coop. There was one at the farm, however it was not very user friendly (for chickens and people). Some of the problems were that people could not enter the space, if food or water was placed inside they would get covered with chicken shit, the nesting boxes were higher than the perches and would not hold nesting material, and it was difficult to move.

So I designed this new mobile coop that is a compilation of other people’s designs:


The idea is that one would move this coop every few days within a fenced in area. Then move accomplished several objectives. First it stresses the land under the coop much less than leaving it in place. Most of the chicken muck accumulates under the roost, so rather than cleaning out the coop, one just moves the coop to a cleaner spot. This also helps to more evenly fertilize the chicken yard. Also the chickens spend much of their time in the shade (under the coop) scratching and generally destroying the land, so moving the coop more evenly distributes the scratching and trampling. In fact, pasturing the chickens on a piece of land is quite healthy for the area if they are moved at appropriate intervals.

As you can see in the picture there are wheels on the back. To move this you just put a dolly under the front and then use the rope tied to the frame to pull the coop. Caitlin and I move it about 100ft with little effort. The food is hung and the water elevated so it stays clean and dry, being protected from weather and cloacae. With the last coop there was nowhere to shelter the food. The roost is not over the food, water, or nesting boxes, which helps keep them all clean. The nesting boxes are lower than the roosts which means the chickens are less likely to roost in them and subsequently less likely to crap on the eggs. Finally, the new coop is people friendly too. We can walk in it to do whatever needs doing.

All in all, I learned quite a bit from this project. Throughout my time on the farm I became invested in learning about pasture chicken management practices, this project was the culmination of all the research I did. I felt accomplished and appreciated through this project, which was a very nice way to end the time at that farm. And the most exciting thing about this was that I made it from 95% scrap material.

At the new farm there is no internet service so I will try to go to a library by next weekend to write again.


Here's your fun extra, a video of the piglets waking up:

video

4/19/08

Next stop "The White House"

I have been very busy recently; in fact I have been feeling a lot like White House Press Secretary Dana Perino. I have spent the last week shoveling about a ton of shit. Not just one type of shit mind you, but chicken and cow. This might not sound like lots of fun to most of you, but don’t knock it until you try it. Really, this has surprisingly been one of the most rewarding jobs here so far. There is a clear beginning and end to this job, which leads to a clear sense of accomplishment, not to mention improving the animal welfare. Also it is very strenuous hard labor, which I enjoy immensely. There is nothing greater than passing out at the end of the day from copious amounts of physical exertion.

The Barn 3/4 Mucked


The other day after spending about 4 straight hours shoveling (actually pitch-forking) I put on my sandals and sat in front of the green house drinking a beer as the sun set. It was totally awesome! I mean really, SANDALS. I thought for sure this year was going to be the one where spring never came, it really seemed that way. But here it is, I guess Jesus must have seen his shadow on Easter, or is it that he didn’t? Anyway, I am so glad spring still exists.

I have not been keeping you all as informed about the farm as I was originally intending, so here is the low down. Caitlin and I are officially done with our hours for the month. However, there is still so much to accomplish that the farm has agreed to pay us hourly to continue for the rest of the month. So far we have we have organized the greenhouse, planted most of the transplants, hooked up the drip-tape system, mucked the barn (the pitch-forking mentioned above), organized the barn, designed a mobile pasture system for the chickens (but have not built it yet), filtered all the Maple syrup, and created a spreadsheet for recording crop info. It has been a fulfilling month.

And for some fun:
I named this rooster John Cleese. If you do not get it look here.
video