Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Taking Stock Part 1: Animals

Well, I'm embarrassed to say that months have passed since we last posted anything here.  It's not that we haven't been working on the farm -- we have -- it's just that we haven't been writing about our work.  We have, however, been documenting things with lots of pictures, some of which I'm going to post here shortly.

In order to get the blog caught up with the farm work, I'm going to write a few posts in the coming weeks under the heading "Taking Stock."  Each week's post will focus on one aspect of the farm, in particular, and this week we are going to feature the animals.  Future posts will focus on the history of the property, on the fields and soil, on the various pieces of equipment we have acquired this season, and on some of the farm's buildings.

We knew early on that we wanted to raise laying hens on the Big Red Farm, and we were inspired by Harvey Ussery's excellent book on small-scale poultry operations.  So, we ordered 100 chicks from the hatchery, built a nice brooder box for them, and waited patiently for Friday June 8.  And then they arrived by USPS via Newark Airport, according to the sticker on the box.  Thanks to our friend Vanessa for the pics below.  

While the chicks stayed warm in the brooder, we stayed busy building pasture shelters for them.  The idea here is to have a moveable home for the chickens, so that we can give them free access to one part of the pasture for a little while, and then move them to another part later.  We got our design from Harvey Ussery's book.

We started with a basic a frame. 

Then added a little more structure.  

Bill (Emma's Dad) came to help.

We stapled hardware cloth to the ends

Finally, we built doors and attached the metal roofing (red, of course). 
Here's one of our two coops behind the electric net fence and the fence charger.

Chickens ranging.  

Back in the spring we saw evidence of mice in the barn, so we resolved to get some barn cats.  We adopted two strays, and named them after Ed and Charles, the two brothers who last farmed here.  They made themselves right at home.  

They seem to enjoy the window view from this toolbox.  

And most recently, we added five sheep to the farm operation, mostly because the soil here (which has been conventionally farmed in corn and soybeans for many years) does not offer much in the way of fertility to would-be organic vegetable growers.  So, we are rotating the sheep through parts of the field where we particularly want to build up the soil quality.

So, that pretty much accounts for all the animals on the farm, at least the ones who are under our care.  There are also plenty of deer, rabbits, groundhogs, hawks, squirrels etc.  And there's the dog, too.


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