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Showing posts from March, 2008

Portrait of a Flock

The girls don't lay in the winter. It's part of their natural cycle, and we don't provide them with a light bulb. Often done for a little additional heat in cold weather, the bulb encourages them to lay, too. (It's the length of day that gets them to start and stop.) We decided we didn't want an extension cord running out to the coop, and we also thought if Mother Nature thought they should just focus energy on eating and surviving it was good enough for us. Our flock is small and so is their coop. The roof opens up so we can lean in to do a count at night, collect eggs, and tidy things up. They have a bar to roost on, and two nesting boxes. We cleaned out the coop in the fall and put down a thick layer of cedar chips. As the girls make their "deposits" we add more cedar chips. The heat created by the composting process helped keep them warm, and will make some excellent fertilizer for the garden, too. A small door on one end lets them come and go during

The Decision to Free Range

Our girls roam free. They enjoy exploring the yard, eating what the birds and the squirrels drop from our feeders, sunning in the lower part of our barn, eating out the compost pile, and walking the trails of our yard. Our last group enjoyed crossing the road to our neighbors yard, and they even strolled up the road sometimes. The Benefits Free range chickens eat well - so many greens, bugs, and other critters - and produce the best eggs I've ever seen in my life. The shells are thick and hard to break. The yolks are brilliant gold, and stain the bowl when we mix up an omelet or scrambled eggs. Study results published in Mother Earth News showed that free range eggs (literally roaming free out under the sun versus roaming freely in an over-packed hen house) have higher nutritional value - lower in bad cholesterol, high in all that good stuff - than conventional eggs from chickens raised in a high-density setting on a diet of grain that includes antibiotics and pesticides. The

The Ladies are Laying

The Ladies, as we like to call our four girs - Kooretza, Asa, Rhoda, and Rocky - are back in the egg business. As part of their natural cycle, they stopped laying last fall when they started molting (talk about stressful for everyone!) and didn't start again until about two weeks ago. Koortetza is an Araucana and the only survivor of our original gang of five. The other three are a mixed batch a friend of mine shared with me this past August. They are an Isa Brown , a Rhode Island Red , and a Barred Rock . (Hence, their names.) Kooretza lays lovely light green blue eggs, and is the most regular layer we have. She's laid almost an egg a day since this latest round. The others all lay brown eggs, and unless there is a feather attached (and sometimes there is) we don't know who used the nesting box that morning. We've had chickens for about two years now. We got them solely for the eggs, and now we have them for eggs, their terrific compost, and the entert

Burn the Front Lawn

Eventually we plan to do a controlled burn of our yard. At our house we've chosen a non-traditional front lawn. Much to the chagrin of our neighbors, and some family and friends we don't mow the whole south section and only trails through the backyard. The north side we mowed until this year. This past Friday we came home, and without missing a beat changed our shoes, grabbed the matches, a couple rakes, and headed out. The humidity was a bit too high, and the grass was a bit too wet still. The fire mostly ran over the top, but it was still highly satisfying. Controversial as this can seem, we love it. Trails wend their way through the large space to the south of our house, making a previously dull space have a little flavor of adventure. Bees, butterflies, snakes, and neighbor cats in heat all enjoy it. Our space is also too large for a push-mower, and with the high price of fuel as well as the fact that engines on mowers aren't regulated for emissions

Which Came First...

In our case, the chickens were surely first. In fact, in our first batch of girls we thought we would never see eggs. Yet, the eggs finally came. And we similarly thought with this group in the Fall that eggs were being hidden. More importantly, my mother-in-law posed the most mind-boggling question: How do they do that? How does that little bird produce something that big nearly every day? Egg formation is perhaps one of the most amazing processes I've ever read about. My fascination is perhaps because I have begun again to find them (one brown, one blue today!), and I marvel at what my girls do with all they eat.

Svalbard Seed Bank - A Hot Spot in a Cool Place

The seed bank in Svalbard is not exactly the next big vacation spot, but for those who think about food production and participate in it, even at the gardening level, it is very exciting! The seed bank is meant to store seed samples from around the world - Mexico, Africa, and India to name a few - in an effort to save endangered plants from extinction as well as preserve biodiversity. Seed banks preserve seeds of fruits and vegetables from natural disasters, wars, and industrial farming. Recent changes in the political and global climate spurred the construction of an international seed bank to house and protect seeds from around the world. Construction began in 2006, and cooling in November, 2007. The seeds need to be kept at minus 20 degrees Celsius. Seed Savers Exchange deposited samples of their seeds, along with other organizations and seed banks from around the world. Organized in part by the Global Crop Diversity Trust , the seed bank will be a vital resource for the fut