Saturday, April 11, 2009

The farm

We enjoyed two warm days of sunshine and now we have rain.  April showers bring May flowers, it is all a part of the cycle of life.  So, my pictures capture the overcast skies but, that is the beauty isn't it?  

The chickens are doing well and ready to emerge from the coop my husband and brother built last fall.  The ground is thawing and we are now able to dig the post holes for the permanent yard we want to put up.  

We plan on moving our flock around the pasture this spring and summer behind the grazers but for now we need a yard for them to play in.  We love our little coop, we built it from scavenged wood and windows.  The frame and siding came from a shed we took down on the property and reassembled farther back in the yard.  We did buy the feeders, hinges and chicken wire though.  We built the nesting boxes out of the old bread drawers from this kitchen and used the drawer runners as legs.  The hens didn't lay in them open but, instead went under them.  So, I built a little box to fit on top from left over wood from the barn.  We put the coop at the back of the yard facing south, it is very sunny and perfect for our girls and guy.  So far we get about 8 eggs a day.  Our flock is currently 9 hens and 1 rooster, his name is Rex.  We let the kids name them this summer.  Spotty, Whitey, Cat, Katie, Bander, and Smokey are the original girls.  We adopted three geriatric girls, Petra, Juana and Maria in early November.  Juana and Maria were renamed by my niece, Lauren, at Christmas.  She calls them Katie Kate and Katie Kate Katie.  She also named our Rhode Island Red Katie, and wanted us to call her Katie so I think it is safe to assume she LOVES the name Katie.  We have been getting one giant egg a day, looks like a duck egg with deformities in the shell.  I read that it is a sign of an older layer.  We all change when we age don't we?  The book recommends culling her from the flock, but there won't be any of that here, she is staying.  I just love her for laying her eggs. We had to separate Petra from the flock and put her in the hospital cage.  It is always a good idea to have a back up small coop for the sick birds way ahead of time.  The flock picked on Petra and started to pull out her feathers.  They became so aggressive that she had sores on her wings and was getting roughed up regularly.  That started when I went to the hospital.  I think the protein balance was off, too much scratch.  We give them scrapes from the veggies too and half of a cabbage a day.  I keep Petra's hospital room right next to the coop and they talk back and forth all day.  Once we get the yard fence up I will reintroduce Petra.

Late last night when I couldn't sleep I read through the book "Smale-Scale Livestock Farming" by Carol Ekarius.  We were inspired by Joel Salatin's book a few years ago and now that we actually live on the land we want to be good stewards, there is so much to learn.  It was a quick read and I liked the author's voice.  I liked the formulas for animal units per acreage and the little stories about "real" people on their farms.  The book gives you basic, light information on every thing from the roots of grass farming to marketing , animal husbandry, goal setting and planning, it is definitely worth checking out of the library.  I am kinda nerdy so I like the worksheets, balance sheets and budgets.  There is even a few pages with details about butchering chickens. So now I am going to sink my teeth into "Grass Productivity" by Andre Voisin.  There is a lot of beef in that book.

We have been reading so much about making our own soil for the raised beds we just built.  We used the left over wood from our barn to build them.  It is locally milled, rough sawn pine. We moved in on May 25 last year with our seedlings in tow.  We had an unusually rainy - cool summer and with the hard pan soil, rocks and huge granite shelves we had a lot of water pooling on the surface of the garden.  This year we built 14"h x 12'l x 4' w raised beds.  I have re-read Michael Guerra's book "The Edible Container Garden" to add food in pots and last autumn when I took the class with Dave Jacke I bought "Perennial Vegetables" by Eric Toensmeier.  We have been very busy reading in the evenings, walking the land in the days and talking a lot about our goals and our dreams while doing our chores.  It feels magical.  An Edible Forest with animals all around.  We are doing our homework now for the greenhouse.  I just treated myself to Eliot Coleman's new book "The Winter Harvest Handbook".  Since we have the E-Classic outdoor wood boiler we will have access to heat for the greenhouse too.  Baby steps for sure.

The horse was feeling her oats today too.  She ran up and down the field bucking and snorting.  Her head held high.  She is very spunky for a Belgian.  She ended up having an abscess in her hoof so the vet came to the farm and cut it out.  We think she got it from the sand in the field. Her hoof is packed with Ichthammol and wrapped in duck tape.  Man that stuff really holds.  She weighs around 1,400 lbs in the rain and even in the mud that tape is still there.  

The woodpecker is back.  I think he is a Yellow-Bellied Sap Sucker?, not sure yet, will update later.  He has a small red patch on his throat and head.  I didn't see any yellow on his breast and his wing feathers are speckled with lots of white.   Maybe you would know?  He sits on the old antennae on our roof and taps out his song on the old hollow aluminum post to attract the females .  He was here last year too, we were so excited when we heard him again.  Watching and listening to him I was reminded of our beloved homeschool reading books, "The Burgess Bird Book for Children" and "The Burgess Animal Book for Children".  They are our read aloud book for nature studies.  I love the narrative; Mother Nature talking to the animals, teaching them about each other.  Most of all I love the drawings my son does and the stories he tells about the animals.  He has learned so much about animal identification from those stories.  They have filled his heart and imagination with the knowledge and love of all animals.  And while you are at it, read "Among the Farmyard People" by Clara D. Pierson too (check out the entire series). has so many lovely books.   We love our Enki/Charlotte Mason/WTM curriculums, it is such a blend of beauty, wonderment, and great literature.  It is a gift to me to teach it.

Peace, on a rainy day on the farm surrounded by life.....

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