Sunday, November 16, 2014

Guarding the chickens

We recently lost a pullet to a red shouldered hawk from this flock of New Hampshire Reds so we moved Sofie, an Akbash Anatolian mix livestock guardian dog in with them for a few days.



Later in the afternoon we discovered the hawk had gone to a different flock on the opposite side of the farm and helped itself to one of the barred rock layers so we moved Josh, our other livestock guardian dog, into that pasture, leaving the goats to fend for themselves for a while.

Because our flocks roam within the limits of movable electric fencing they are protected from most predators. Aerial predators such as hawks have an advantage though they are usually not a problem. Colder weather is here and apparently some of the small rodents and snakes that comprise the hawks' diet are not as readily accessible

Monday, November 10, 2014

Helpful Chickens

While we raise layers for their eggs (and the delicious stewing hens we get when laying days are over), the natural life of a chicken serves many purposes on the farm.
Chickens love to scratch in the dirt and eat the bugs stirred up by their activity. We moved the New Hampshire Reds onto our future berry patch and while they are doing what comes naturally they are also fertilizing the soil and spreading the leaf mulch and old straw piles for us. Every critter on the farm is skilled with multi-tasking.  For chickens, having access to piles of mulch and straw, is similar to being at an amusement park with free food!

Domestic chickens are descended from jungle fowl so their natural diet is insects, plants, small rodents, lizards and seeds. A "vegetarian" diet is actually not a complete and healthy diet for a chicken. We are grateful for the labor-saving joy these chickens are experiencing. They'll be happy when we share the extra berries with them next year too!

The patch of soil the chickens are rehabilitating is on an area that is part of what was the most worn out of our pastures when we bought the farm 4 years ago. For 4 years we have bush-hogged whatever grew and allowed the plant life to lie on the soil to decompose. For 3 years chickens have been moved across the pasture from one spot to another and we can see the benefit of our efforts. No pesticides, insecticides or herbicides have been used on any part of the farm and the land is healing. As the land heals the plant life changes from weeds to grasses, eroded places vanish as the increasing organic matter in the land enables the soil to absorb the water.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Straw!

Straw is the stalk of a grain plant after the grain has been harvested.  Hay is made from any of several types of pasture grass such as fescue, timothy, alfalfa or orchard grass.

We use a lot of straw on the farm. Some of it we use to mulch our garden to hold moisture in the soil and to suppress weed growth. Most of it is used to provide bedding for the chickens. The straw provides carbon which helps to absorb the moisture of the chickens' poops thus keeping the air quality in the hen-a-bago pleasant and healthy for them. It makes our work more pleasant too.

Charlie picked up a load of 120 bales of wheat straw on the trailer and 10 in the bed of the truck. We are grateful to find a farmer who grows grains organically.  By using straw from his plants we assure that as the straw decomposes on our pastures and in our gardens it is not depositing any genetically modified components or the residue of toxic pesticides, herbicides and/or insecticides.   

Lots of tie downs kept the straw bales from falling or blowing off on the journey home.

Trailer's empty.
Pole barn is stacked with straw once again.

In about 3 months we'll do it all again.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Mowing the Rye

Getting started
One of our winter cover crops continues to work for us. The rye grew well, fed the layers fresh greens during the winter and then completed its life cycle but not its usefulness to the farm. We didn't grow it to harvest for the grain so Charlie mowed it and is allowing it to lay on the ground, helping to keep the soil beneath cool and moist on our hot, dry summer days.
Charlie is adjusting the height of the sickle bar mower.

And away he goes!

Down goes the rye.

Almost finished.

Heads of rye

Straw


Friday, June 13, 2014

Triad Farm Tour

We had a terrific turnout for the Triad Farm Tour last weekend.  Thanks to Carolina Farm Stewardship Association for sponsoring & supporting this event and to all who attended and/or volunteered.  We had a great time; even Sunday's rain did not stop participants from coming.  In fact, we were so busy giving tours that I only snapped one photo.
Charlie set up a display of some of the farm equipment including the 1953 Farmall Cub, the antique mining wagon converted to our farm store produce cart, the small John Deere lawn tractor and the larger John Deere tractor. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Burlington Downtown Farmers' Market

Here's where we'll be tomorrow from 8 to noon at the corner of Front and Spring Streets, downtown Burlington.  Come see us!
Burlington Downtown Farmers' Market continues through October.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Triad Farm Tour is this weekend!

The Triad Farm Tour is an opportunity to tour local organic and sustainable farms in the Triad area.



It's even possible to volunteer either Saturday or Sunday afternoon at a farm and Carolina Farm Stewardship Association provides you with a ticket to tour the other farms on the afternoon you are not volunteering. Sounds like a good deal!  More information about the tour and volunteering is here:  http://www.carolinafarmstewards.org/tft/

Come see us!