Sunday, November 29, 2015

Of Seasons and Free-Thinking Chickens...

This time of year always seems to sneak up on me.  Some days I feel like summer is never going to end and I will forever and always have piles of picked vegetables staring up at me, waiting to be preserved.  Then it happens.  I wake up one morning and the air is crisp and cool, bringing promises of shorter days and lower temperatures!

We spent time getting the chickens moved from the pasture to the greenhouse and they seem to be enjoying their winter home.

But we have one chicken in particular who is keeping a routine of her own.

Each morning, we get up and open the doors to the greenhouse so the chickens can roam within the protection of their poultry net fencing.  Most of them are capable of flying over the fencing if they choose to (we don't clip their wings), but only one chicken does. 

As soon as the door opens and they all file outside.... one little white leghorn runs to the edge of the fencing, flies over it, and walks swiftly across the field.

A photo of her daily pilgrimage to the barn as seen from our front windows on one cold morning...
If we open the doors later than normal, she doesn't walk, she RUNS (and boy can white leghorns run) to the barn... across this field.

Once in the barn, she clucks loudly at the barn cats who quickly vacate their heated bed area... and
the chicken enters as the cats look on.  And that is where she lays her egg.  Every.Single.Day.  We need to name her as she is has quite the independent spirit!  (Any ideas for a name?  Please send us a note with your ideas!) 

After she lays her egg, she wanders back to the greenhouse area, picking up bugs and grasses as she goes.  Eventually she flies back over the fencing and spends the evening with the rest of the flock.


The other chickens are happy in their greenhouse home and never leave the area.  The baby chicks will be laying in early spring and we are enjoying raising little ones again.  These 45 chicks are Black Sexlinks, and are about 8 weeks old.  They are sectioned off from the older chickens so they are protected, and so they stay only on their grower ration of feed.  (Too much calcium in the adult laying hen's feed can be dangerous to a growing chick.)

They are already getting friendly with us and are excited to see us.  We try to make them friendly so when it comes time to move them out to pasture, or move the fencing to another area, they are willing participants!  Many farmers would say we are odd, perhaps, being so friendly with our animals when there is so much other work to do.  But friendly chickens makes for good teamwork.  And teamwork saves a lot of time when on the pasture moving them around.  ;-)   It also helps us see easily if a chicken is ill or needs anything from us.  Thankfully, we've had no illness in any of our flocks!

 The remaining greenhouse space is for the hens of laying age.  We have white leghorns, golden comets and a couple of buff orpingtons.  The greenhouse is a huge blessing as it gives us so much ease of work in the winter, as well as:
  • Gives the chickens a safe place at night away from hungry predators.
  • Gives the chickens a place to be out of the weather when needed.
  • Keeps the nest boxes and eggs cleaner during muddy weather which comes with fall and winter
  • Gives us a "rest" (of sorts) by containing all we need to service the chickens each day, and gives us a relatively warm working area (no trudging out to a distant field in the snow!)
And a great by-product of the chickens in the greenhouse is all of the mulch that we have added through the winter months is composted with the chicken's droppings.  It is eventually turned into a compost pile which makes a rich soil for the garden each spring.  No artificial fertilizers are needed.

 Heat lamps keep the chickens water from freezing on cold nights and additional sleeping heat lamps are provided for the young chicks.  They are cozy until the spring thaw!

Enjoying the change of the seasons... Happy Winter!
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;   Ecc 3:1-2

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Summertime Thoughts

Each day the view out my kitchen window changes.  Whether it is due to the height of the grass, the moving of animals, an approaching storm, or the hue in the evening sky, no day looks the same. 

As I complete the seemingly endless kitchen responsibilities that come with nearing end of the summer season, I am grateful for this view, its variations, and the invitation to observe and enjoy.

And along with the views, there is the hard-to-explain feeling of being quite liberated by growing and raising our own food.  It is liberating, indeed.

Tending to Dylan's bees with help of an expert/friend.
Homemade soup from the chickens processed a few months ago.  Very healing.

Broth from home grown chickens, ready for storage or freezer.

One of our new 60 White Leghorn chickens in her egg-mobile.

Tomatoes and tomatillos from the garden, roasting for salsa.

Picks from the morning.

Canning, canning and more canning.  Green beans, peaches, tomatoes and bread-and-butter pickles.

Summertime meals right from the garden.  No grocery store needed.  (Okay, except for the carrots!)
 Tomorrow will hold an entirely different beauty, unique in its own way.
"He has made everything beautiful in its time..."
Ecclesiastes 3:11

Friday, June 5, 2015

What's Growing?!

Here is an update of some of the things growing on the farm this spring.  We had a slower start due to a variety of reasons, but are getting up and running now!

We are still learning much about crop rotation, companion planting, and all things natural (no toxic anything allowed!)  We hope to have food for our family but also enough to share with other families via the Farmington Farmer's Market as well as those homeschooling families we see in the city each month.  What a joy it will be to see a harvest!

 Squash plants are planted with nasturtium flowers, a natural deterrent for squash bugs, which plagued us last year near the end of the season.  We will see how well they work in a couple of months.
 We have ordered natural predator bugs such as lady bugs and nematodes to take care of our emerging Colorado Potato beetle problem.  So far the potato plants are looking wonderful.

Emerging sweet corn.  We are anxious to see how we do with sweet corn, which is prone to all sorts of bugs - and the reason why commercial corn is heavily sprayed with toxic chemicals.  Many of those chemicals become useless as the bugs develop a resistance to them.  So a natural remedy may be more difficult at first, but is lasting and a whole lot healthier!  Our popcorn plants did very well without any intervention last year.

Onion plants sprouting...

Lots of tomatoes in many varieties.  We will also be canning as many of these as possible for stews, chili, soups, sauces and other fall/winter favorites.  If there is interest, we may be able to can these for others to sell along with our fresh produce.

Our lettuce and spinach plants are producing heavily and we've had enough to share with others.  We are attempting to have three separate growing areas so that we are always starting new lettuce, to continue through the fall season.

I didn't expect the strawberry plant to do nearly as well as it has!  After attending a farmer's market workshop, the list of diseases and other problems with strawberries had me convinced we couldn't do it without chemicals.  But alas, our plant has multiplied itself from last year, into about 10 plants and the berries are delicious!  We are harvesting 1/2 to a full cup each day.

Herb garden is started with oregano, thyme, cilantro, basil, sage, lavender and parsley.  We will be dehydrating any that we don't sell fresh and those will be available to all interested.  They are SO much better than store bought - the flavor is rich and we find we use about 1/2 as much per recipe.

Dylan's bees are doing well, they have expanded into a second brooder box.  Next will be a "super" box which will hold excess honey.  For this year, we don't expect to harvest any honey as the bees will need it to survive through the winter.  But we are hopeful for next year!

Our second hive had a swarm leave and we are hoping to attract them to a 3rd hive we have set up.  How exciting it would be if they decided to move into it.  But they may just fly on, leaving this hive to start another queen.  This is swarming season and we may have waited too long to add another box so they decided to leave for more space.  However, sometimes they just leave because it's their instinct to spread and multiply - I guess they know they should "BEE fruitful and multiply"  Forgive me for the terrible pun!  :-)

Like everything on the farm, flexibility is key.  Our whole day was planned today, when we saw the swarm starting early in the morning.  Feeling helpless at first, we spoke to a couple of experts and decided we would set up a third hive - which took all morning.  There are the goals for the day - and then there is reality! 

Dylan has spent many hours reading and researching how to manage bee hives.  What a learning experience this is!

Below, the bees are beginning to "glue" the new top box to the original one - they will seal it up tight with their bee glue.  They are such amazing creatures to observe, and amazing creation that only an amazing God could have designed!

Blueberry plants are the most challenging plant we've tried.  But boy are they worth it.

They require very acidic soil, and constant testing to ensure the PH is low enough.  Our soil is naturally balanced, so lowering it takes some work.  The other challenge is the weeds.  This looks like a full day's work to us!


But in spite of much needed weeding - the berries are doing well so far.  I've taste-tested a few (couldn't wait!)

We will be bringing blueberries into the city this year from our neighbors blueberry farm.  I'll be asking for advanced orders soon.  They are amazingly yummy - and I think we eat as many as we pack some days.

 The raspberries are giving me great joy.  They used to look like the blueberries until we weeded them and mulched them.  No more weeds!  Looking forward to multiplying the bushes and having plenty of raspberries to share.

The baby chicks are ready to go on pasture, but seem pretty comfy in the greenhouse.  We have some work to do to get them out on pasture.  The rain has slowed us down (still we're thankful for it.)  They seem like they will be great foragers, so the sooner we get them out on pasture the better!

It's a bigger job for us - we just aren't all that efficient yet.  And these little ones aren't as tame as our last batch of chickens, making them just less agreeable about things we want them to do.  :-) 

Our egg customers as well as those on our waitlist, will be glad to know that it won't be too much longer before we can fill all orders.   Hopefully sometime in late August we'll see them start laying. Yippee!


And that's all for now - thanks so much to all our faithful and patient customers and friends!

- Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do,
do all to the glory of God. - 1 Corinthians 10:31

Sunday, May 24, 2015

This Week on the Farm

What a blessed week we had!  We had two wonderful families from the city come to visit us.  Later in the week, one family asked if they could help around the farm and insisted that they do meaningful work and accomplish results.  What a hard working family they are!

In short order, the boys and my Dylan had the entire greenhouse cleared out and prepared for the new chicks to move out there.  Without their help, we would have surely spent the entire weekend completing this project.

The girls teamed up with my mom to clear out two garden boxes which had become overrun with weeds.  They then planted new lettuce from the greenhouse which was overdue for the move.  They also harvested a ton of lettuce and spinach.

Many hands make light work, and also make for a fun day!


 We then enjoyed a nice lunch together!

We are so grateful for the Noel family.  (Picture with 7 of their 8 children plus Dylan and Kailyn.)  They are such an amazing example of diligence!

 Then the weekend came and we had more help from my parents, getting our 59 new chicks into their new home - the greenhouse.  They will live here until they are 5-6 weeks old, with some visits to the pasture on warm days.

Our neighbors were also busy this weekend, processing 1/2 of their meat chickens.  My mom went over the lend a hand.

Hard working ladies...  and two hard working boys as well.  A homeschool day well spent, learning to care for your own food.

 Dylan spent time with Mr. Harold, getting as much knowledge as he can about bees, as he learns to care for his own two hives.  What a blessing it is to live next door to these sweet and knowledgeable people.

 We are looking forward to a harvest of honey, garden products and many more eggs to share with our community and our homeschooling friends in the city.
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work.
Ecclesiastes 4:9