Monday, December 29, 2014

Carpenter at work

Charlie is taking advantage of the sunny days we have between rain storms to work on the Hawg Haus. The doorway has been framed. The pigs are much shorter than this doorway but this structure will serve eventually as the farrowing house so we have to be able to get the farmers into it in case any midwifing is needed.

After building the door, Charlie propped it in the doorway until he has time to attach the hinges.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Helpful Visitors

Visitors to the farm are always willing to pitch in and help with routine chores or whatever project is currently underway. Laurie and Brian have been here doing just that the past few days and we are very grateful.
Brian helped Charlie with the Hawg Haus. The roof is almost complete.

Laurie assisted with egg gathering.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Hawg Haus in progress

Charlie has been working away on the portable piggy pens he's designing & building in preparation for the KuneKune pigs we've purchased. While Jonathan was visiting he helped with the construction of the first one and named the structure "Hawg Haus."
Charlie and Jonathan taking a photo break from their work.

Two days later. Brian just arrived so the work that requires 4 hands can resume.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Kunekune, arriving soon!

After considering many porcine breeds we have decided to raise Kunekune, an old & rare breed. Kunekune are small, friendly and vegetarian so they are well suited to our system of pasturing our animals. Stay tuned!

This litter is a little older than the ones we will be receiving. 

Kunekune love tummy rubs!

Bella, one of our 2 gilts, arriving soon

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 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


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:

Come see us!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


The garden is coming along slowly with a late start and a too early arrival of hot weather.  The weeds are growing abundantly and we've been weeding a lot this week.
This double row of English peas is weeded on the right side while the left side shows the "before" appearance.  It's finished and mulched now!  We may not get any peas this year because the weather is so warm the peas are not flowering.  The green beans are though so we won't go hungry.

Charlie is adjusting the Farmall to fine tune his cultivation of the garden rows.  The mulched rows on the left are the two rows we've finished weeding.

Mama Hen 11; Rat Snake 2

Friday morning Charlie let the "Mama" broody hen and the 13 chicks in her care out of the brooderhouse to enjoy the day, the grass and the bugs.  These babies really know how to forage thanks to this attentive Mama's guidance.  When Jan went by the brooderhouse about an hour later she counted only 11 little yellow fuzz balls.  We searched the outside yard area and could find no signs of chicks so we guessed a snake had gotten them.  What we didn't guess was that the snake was so close by.  When Jan went into the brooderhouse to put down some fresh straw she found an unexpected "sunbather" in a corner.

Notice the lumps in this young (but large) rat snake.  Our 2 missing biddies.

Charlie caught the snake with his trusty snake catcher.  

And away we went.  With Jan driving the cart and Charlie holding the snake (who was a little angry!) we took off for the back woods on the farm and released it.  Rat snakes help to keep the rodent population under control for which we are grateful.  We'd prefer they not eat the chicks or the eggs, but sometimes one seizes the opportunity.  It's been a week of snakes.  This is the 6th one we've seen and the 4th to be caught and "relocated."

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Pastured Poultry Workshop

Our County Extension Agent invited us to host her Pastured Poultry Workshop.  It was held yesterday, May 13, 2014.  It was unseasonably hot but at least we had no rain.
We pulled 5 birds from their flocks to be used in Dan's demonstration.  They
were happy to go home again when the show was over.
Here are some photos of the well-attended, informative event.

County Agent for Livestock and Forages, Lauren Langley, setting up the registration table.
Our friend, Farmer Mike, arriving to help us with parking.
Dan Campeneau, Poultry Agent, teaching about conformation
or how to determine a good layer from a cull.

Learning about mobile housing from Charlie and Dan.

The next workshop will be held September 30th on the topic of "Small Flock Health."  Location TBD.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Triad Farm Tour

Wings of Dawn Farm is participating in the 1st Annual Triad Farm Tour.  Come and see us!
We are excited to be invited to participate. The Tour is happening June 7th and 8th from 2 to 6 in the afternoon.  Save the date and plan to tour as many of the farms as you can.  More info is here:

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

New Babies!

Some of our White Plymouth Rock pullets went broody so we set eggs under two of them.  Almost all of them hatched!
Can you see 3 little yellow fuzz balls peeking out from under this mama?

Day 2 and they are out of the nest and wandering about.  Mama is clucking at the chicks and puffing up to make herself look formidable in case we get any ideas about bothering the babies.  At night we put them in a large tote with a weighted screen top to protect them from black snakes.  Snakes really like to eat baby chicks and we really like to prevent them from doing so.  There are 13 babies in all.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

New Chicks

The power outage from the ice storm stretched into day 5 on Tuesday and we were a bit worried about the 130 baby chicks due to arrive the next morning.  Baby chicks need 95 degree temperatures for the first week and, without power, we had no way to provide it. Fortunately, our electricity was restored late on Tuesday and we were able to plug in the heat lamps and prepare for the chicks.
Our newest flock of layers is a breed called New Hampshire Reds. They hatched on Monday at Meyer Hatchery in Ohio and very soon were packaged for shipment to us via the US Postal System.  Our post office called at 5:30 Wednesday morning to announce the chicks arrival. Jan went to get them while Charlie did the morning chores with the other critters.  The chicks are thirsty when they arrive.  Teaching them to drink is our first task. Quickly they found water without help.

Some felt a little chilly and huddled together under the heat lamps for warmth. Chickens naturally cuddle together in a group effort to keep everyone warm.  It was a cool, rainy and windy day.  

Some were hungry and made use of the feeders filled with organic chick starter from our local feed mill, Reedy Fork Organic Farm. This batch of chicks is alert, active and healthy.  We anticipate them growing quickly and becoming reliable providers of delicious and healthy eggs.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Ice Storm, part 1

The skies began spitting icy rain about 5 p.m. yesterday and during the night we lost power (and sleep) while listening to trees (or parts of them) crash to the ground under the weight of the frozen precipitation which pounded the roof all night, coating everything with ice.

Morning chores were to begin early so we could catch the train to DC for a weekend with family but in dawn's dim light it became obvious we could not go anywhere.

The view from the back door shows one pine that fell during the night and another atop the first one which uprooted early in the day when the  over-saturated ground could no longer hold it and the weight of the ice coating its limbs and needles. The small oak tree, bending under the ice's weight on the right of the picture, has since been uprooted and fallen to the ground also. The two white horizontal lines are the ice-coated clothes line.  Not a good drying day today!

We moved the vehicles to an area out of reach of falling trees.  The ice on the branches is lovely, but treacherous.  The chickens' feather net fencing is so coated with ice it has fallen under the weight and our multiple attempts to upright it are futile as the precipitation continues.  So many tree tops have come down since this picture was taken this morning that the skyline is less full now.  The white on the walk is slush from accumulated sleet and freezing rain.  We haven't had snow, yet, though we do have 2 1/2" of precipitation in the rain gauge.

A tree line runs along our property line on the north side of pasture one.  As you can see the trees are literally on the line, the fence line.  They have taken down part of the 6-strand high tensile fence and just missed the flexible feather netting.  They also just missed the cedar fence post buried under the branches.

We'll be cleaning up from this storm for a long time.  More pictures are coming so you'll see additional posts as I get out and about to take pictures.  We, and all our neighbors, have lost power.  We're using a generator right now, until the gas runs out!  Tomorrow our forecast is for sunshine and a high of 65!  What a difference a day makes!

Thursday, February 13, 2014


This winter has been unusually cold but until yesterday we hadn't had any snow accumulation.  With this storm (named Pax) we've experienced rain, snow, sleet, and freezing rain.

The chickens don't seem to like cold feet.  Here's one barred rock who braved the elements and  is heading back to the shelter of the hen-a-bago.

The view from our front door the morning after the storm began.

None of the chickens would go outside this morning. I had to move a feeder closer to the hen-a-bago, rake a path through the snow, and cover a small area of ground with straw to entice them to come out for food and water. Apparently hunger and thirst were not sufficient motivators.

The snow stopped late in the afternoon and the sun finally came out just in time to set in a blaze of color.