Thursday, March 14, 2013

Holy- you know what

Here are two piles of future fertility. Weed seedy pasture grasses are part of the mix, which just means more stuff for the chickens to eat that I don't have to plant or buy.

Yesterday I cleaned out both chicken houses in the backyard. We have a greatly reduced, older flock in the back of four hens and a rooster, but they still generate a significant amount of black and white gold, even with the deep litter method, to warrant the occasion. 

The deep litter method involves putting fresh bedding over all the richness until it's as deep as you want. The layers beneath slowly compost and can help keep the place warm in the winter. However, my stores have dried up and the weather has been so wet that it has not allowed enough time for our wealth of fallen leaves to dry enough to shred and bag up. And I wanted to get some cover and pasture crop growing around the fruit and nut trees planted in the chicken pen before they wake from their winter's dormancy.
After spreading my treasure around, I need to put up some protection from the chickens  before I sow the seeds.
The inexpensive netting is stretched between a few posts, pinned to the ground using snips of old fence wire, and extended to form baffles at the top with forked sticks and scraps of twine.

Now I can sow and water (gravity fed with the rainwater collection system I built on the nearby tractor shed last year)  safely while the chickens pace the perimeter in frustration. Yes, as soon as I started throwing down seed, the rooster came over and began chattering excitedly. The hens quickly joined him to see what the fuss was about. A good test for the net barrier, which did the trick.
A good afternoon's work. A blog post of euphemisms. Just wait until the coffee kicks in.....

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Mobbing Along the Meadow

My day begins before dawn. I sip coffee and work on my computer stuff before the activity begins. The sun pops up and then the kids pop up, one at a time. There are breakfasts to get and lamb's milk to warm, and then, once the kids have dined, dressed and the baby diapered, it's time to do the chores.

First, the lambs are let out of their paddock and posts are driven in at the corners to secure it for the pigs.

Next, the pigs are let through to root in the paddock the lambs grazed in the day before.
Posts are driven in to secure the sides of the panels.
The three panels where the pigs used to be are moved to create a new paddock joined to the other one. Then the lambs follow their little mistress into their fresh grazing quarters.
The chicken tractor follows the general path of the sheep and pigs. It is moved to fresh ground on dry days. 

The tall, dead grass from last fall is cut a bit at a time with a sickle to provide fresh bedding for the animals, though enough is left standing to give the chickens plenty of hiding places from hawks.

The spent bedding is spread over the rooted up pasture after the pigs have gone through.

Some areas in the pasture stay green all winter. The dead stalks insulate from the cold, as well as the thick layer of humus below. More biomass exists in the areas where the slope levels off, as it collects the overland runoff from the higher ground during rain showers. Terracing the land for this purpose can greatly increase it's productivity.

Another small resident waits eagerly for a stray seed to grab from pig's breakfast.

Here is a small, terraced garden where the pigs and chickens grazed last fall. It has been divided into beds and paths, and sown with cover crops. The paths are sown with perennial clover. The work is done a bit at a time when there is a break in the rain and a couple of fair days to dry it out enough to work the broadfork.