News From the Family Farm
Chickens, irrigation, fish and trees make up a lot of this month’s news from the family farm. Rodger has just returned from having spent three weeks in May working with Bennett on the family farm. Check out the cool mobile chicken coop they built! This beauty was built on an old boat trailer that had been abandoned on our farm by a previous tenant. The coop is designed so that the laying boxes can be accessed from outside the coop. The front of the coop has large entry doors so that the coop can be cleaned with a long handled rake or shovel from outside the building. This coop is now the night time safe spot for 50 Barred Rocks and 50 Rhode Island Reds. We’ve got 32 laying boxes for these hens and at peak laying season we could be getting as many as 8 dozen eggs a day!
As cool as it is to having loads of omega 3 rich eggs from chickens that are allowed to free range and forage for weeds and insects, that isn’t why we got the chickens. The chickens are farm labor! They help us weed and feed the elderberry orchard. We’ve got orchards in various states of development; some just planted, others that are a couple years old, and others that are older than that. We’ve discovered that the chickens are naturally drawn to the cover that mature elderberries afford. When one of the chickens alerts, they all dive for cover under the elderberries and continue their foraging under the elderberries, which is perfect! That is exactly what we want them to do.
We are still learning how long to leave the chickens in one spot of the orchard before we move them. We are using portable poultry netting to pen them and keep the predators out. The fence is powered by a solar charger when the sun is out. Rodger and Bennett started them out in a section of a new orchard and after a week it was time to move them. Once the chickens are moved, we come in behind them and mulch the elderberries with compost and straw.
Other projects Rodger and Bennett completed include stocking the lower pond with fish, planting 150 trees, spreading minerals on the whole orchard, and beginning the big job of fixing the gravity fed irrigation system. Installed years ago, many of the fittings need to be replaced in order to make it work. Felt great to get water to the edge of the orchard! Rodger took tons of pictures and videos while he was back and put together this video of his time on the farm. Summer is our slow time with the Norm’s Farms business, so next month we’re both going back to the farm to harvest some elderflowers. Can’t wait!