Monday, April 29, 2013

My Favorite Place

The hundred acres wood is a big place full of steep hills, old overgrown logging roads, and deep hollows. There are places on the property I have not even seen.  And sadly, we'd stopped exploring.

We had gotten stuck in a rut. We worked, worked, worked the farm, but the land we use for the farm is only a fraction of the property. We rarely ventured beyond that space, and when we did it was on the same old paths that we've followed for years.

This spring, what began as a desire to find ramps, has turned into a Sunday afternoon habit of walks in the woods in places we rarely go. We haven't found ramps (or morels for that matter,) but we have found some beautiful things.

One spot, in particular has caught my fancy. It is on a north facing slope. It is a rain run off that is tucked deeply in the curve of the hill. It is cool, damp, rocky, and full of some of my favorite woodland flora. The hillside is covered with fern, and the first time we walked this way we spotted trillium.

Yesterday, we went to check if the trillium were blooming. They were. They are gorgeous.

I explored a little deeper down the run off, and found another lovely plant. I'd never seen this one in the wild before. It is jack-in-the-pulpit. 

Lydia and I also discovered the area is full of spicebush. I've gathered these berries before, and they are a wonderful spice. We will be gathering late this summer. 

I love this spot. It is fairly easily accessible, and I do believe it is the prettiest spot on the property. Here are a few more pictures from our walk.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Turkey Talk

A little over a month ago, we brought home our first turkeys. We've talked about raising turkeys pretty much from the beginning of this farm, but shied away because we had the notion that they were difficult to raise. So far, they have been easy and enjoyable. I love to listen to them.

About a week ago our tom began talking to some wild turkeys across the hollow.  He'd "gobble, gobble," and a few minutes later you could hear "gobble, gobble," on the opposite hill.

A few days ago, as we were driving out the lane we noticed the gobbling had gotten a little louder, a little closer, and in fact it was. Four wild toms had come up to the fence line to see what was going on. They were walking the fence line, and checking it out.

A few minutes later,  I looked and the wild toms had come a little closer, and our tom was not happy about it. He was at the fence letting them have it, "GOBBLE, GOBBLE." They were not intimidated and stood right in his face, "GOBBLE, GOBBLE" through the fence.

By the time I ran in for the camera, the wild turkeys had decided it wasn't worth their time, and went strolling back down the hill. I haven't seen, or heard them since.

In other turkey news....

The hens are sitting. The last of the three hens decided she'd rather help her friend on her nest than to make her own.

I thought about trying to discourage her, but I think we'll just let nature take its course. Hoping for some poults soon, and our own Thanksgiving turkey!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Welcome to the Farm

We are so excited to welcome some new little, but important, creatures to the farm! Since we've moved here we've kicked around the idea of setting up some hives on the farm. We know nothing about keeping bees, and the time never seemed quite right to dive into this area of agriculture. It still doesn't, but....

We know a local bee keeper, Gabe Blatt, who was maxed out in his current space. Space, we have. So, long story short, he and Tim talked, Gabe and his wife came out for a visit, and a few weeks later there are bees in the 100 Acre Wood!

Let the pollination begin!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Spring! Spring! Spring!

Do you know what this is? 

Spring is really here! As with every spring, we wait impatiently. We lament the lingering winter weather. We look for glimpse of sun and warmer temperatures, and keep our spring fever at bay by starting plants inside.

Then suddenly, the spring weather has arrived and the to do lists we've been dreaming about are a reality. The days start early, and end late. I struggle between getting the long list of outside chores accomplished while still getting this family fed, having clean plates to eat off of, and clean clothes to wear the next day. Days end with dinner around 8, a lot left on the list, and a family too tired to care. It is exhilarating  It is exhausting. It is spring, and I love it!

Most of our spring garden is in. I'd hoped to put some more in today, but the rain made that impossible. The rain however did bring a nice spurt of green to the trees and the seeds already in the garden! Summer plants are hardening off in preparation for the garden in a few weeks.

More seeds have been started in my garden tub. There are a few more seeds, plants, and fruit trees (yes!) to be purchased.

We have one turkey hen who should be close to hatching her clutch. Another turkey hen has just begun to sit on her nest. We have sows with visible baby bump bellies, and today a litter of rabbits was born. That is the picture at the top. The little pink lumps are newborn rabbits. I don't like to disturb them much. I only moved the fur away from the top to get a look in. Looks like a small litter. I could see four, but this is a first time doe. Rabbits are notorious for losing their first litters, and I'm just thrilled to see them in the box in a nest of fur like they should be.

We have a whole lot of broilers out in the converted goat shed. Our first processing will be this Saturday, and more chicks arrive on Wednesday.

Yes this is spring. Yes it is crazy busy, but yes we love it, and the payoff it will bring in a few months! How is your spring?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Goat Shed Conversion

Six year ago, (six years really!) my dad built a tree house, for the goats. Based on the pictures, the building was also for our first piglets.

Charcoal in June 2007

Charcoal and her piglets December 2012
Wow! What a difference! But I digress. This post is about the building. That building was originally designed for the goats. This is what it looked like then.

You can see an interior divider gate on the right side of the shed. That was used to divide the building when needed. It was mostly used as a nursery pen where new mommas and babies could be separate from the rest of the herd. What you can't see is the small door on that side of building and the fencing that was eventually added to create two pastures, separate, but both accessible from the building. The set up worked out very nicely for us. 

In the scaling back and finding our feet again process we've been in the last few years, there are no longer goats or sheep here on the farm. We have used the space for pigs, temporarily, but it really doesn't work well, and the floor of the building was not designed for that kind of weight, which we found out the hard way, We Won

The better part of the last couple years we haven't done anything with that building. There have been chickens in the pasture, but we were using temporary shelters (with mixed results.) This year we want to expand our broiler production, and knew we needed to do something different. 

The main chicken house is large enough for a lot of chickens. It has access to a very large run that can then be opened up to the woods or to the yard to be sure the chickens get full access to bugs and plants and all the things they love to forage. 

With our first batch of broilers I assumed that I could keep them in the same space, and it would all be fine. They never left the chicken house. Our long steep chicken ladder was the issue.

In order to up broiler production we needed to build something new, or convert what we had. We chose to convert the goat shed. 

Protecting chickens from night predators is always our biggest challenge. In order to use the goat shed for the broilers we needed to secure it. The first task was to put a door on the big open space in the front. Tim and Kellen walled of about half the space and then created a sliding door for the rest. This large door gives us easy access to the space, and can be used to allow chickens access to the pasture on that side. The existing door on the right gives them access to another pasture. 

There are no windows in this building, but the rough board style of the sides plus roof vent give plenty of ventilation. We covered the roof vents with chicken wire for predator protection. 

We lined the bottom of the walls with old feed bags. This was partially for a wind break for any remaining cold nights, and partially a predator protection. It may seem like over kill. The boards are pretty close together, and a feed bag isn't a lot of protection, but it made me feel better. Last summer, we literally had raccoon reach into chicken wire pens to pull parts of chickens through the wire, and pull young chickens legs through rabbit wire. Gruesome, I know, but reality. 

The building is now serviceable, though we do have a couple more things to do before it is complete. We'd like to run electric out to it. (Currently using a heavy duty extension cord.) We need to add some roosts. Since this building is intended for broilers, roosts will simply be 2x4s a few inches off the floor. They won't roost high, but giving them a low roost helps to keep them clean and healthy.

I'd like to cover the divider in wire so I can again separate the building. The small side could be used for brooding when the weather permits. 

If we want to be able to rotate the pastures, we will need to do some fencing work. The current fencing is not sufficient to keep chickens in one pasture only. 

We put about 140 chickens in there a few days ago. I let them out for the first time today. I love watching chicks on their first day out. They seem to be utterly fascinated by the big world out there, not to mention the tasty bugs and grass! I think this set up will work well for the broilers!