I realize that it has been quite a long time since I’ve
posted anything, and I apologize for that. It seems that although our warm weather growing season had
ended, we had much to do. I’ve
provided a summary below of what all has been happening at the farm since my
October was spent cleaning up the fields, which included
bush-hogging the remnant crops, pulling drip tape, removing tomato cages, and
breaking down trellises that we used for cucumbers and beans. After bush-hogging, I tilled under much
of the crop fields and allowed all of that organic material to decompose back
into the soil. After two weeks, I
applied some fertilizer and re-planted these fields with a cover crop of rye
and crimson clover. This crop is
typically called a “green manure”.
Rye grass has a deep taproot that provides a mechanism for breaking up
hard pan areas below the till depths which can increase nutrient availability. Clover is a legume, and is one of God’s
designs for a natural way to capture available/usable nitrogen that is needed
for soil fertility. Despite
October being incredibly dry and warm, the fields are now green and
healthy. I hope that they will
continue this way until it is time for spring planting. The lush growth that is being produced
can be tilled under 2 weeks before planting which will add some much needed
organic material to the soil. Most
sustainable farm experts will say that if you take care of the soil, the soil
will take care of you. I hope this
is true. It’s easy to understand
why conventional farms do not typically utilize this method as it requires
additional labor, time, and expense without any direct return. But as a steward of what He has given
us, I feel strongly that this is the prudent approach.
Also during October, I began planning for chickens. I’ve never had chickens before (much
like I’ve never farmed before), and so I read a few books on raising chickens
this summer. My plan is to have
pasture-raised eggs available for our CSA customers this spring. Despite many folks warning me against
getting started with chickens in the colder months, my plan was to get chicks
in November and grow them until they were mature enough to lay in Spring. Chickens generally require about 4-5
months before they reach maturity for laying eggs. We decided on black australorps for their egg-laying ability
(5/week/hen), their ability to naturally forage, their hardiness, and their
gentle nature. I purchased 25 and
they arrived in early November.
Prior to their arrival, I researched ideas about where I would keep
them. I decided on chicken
tractors. In short, chicken
tractors are moveable pens and coops that allow you to move your birds to
different fields/areas from day to day.
This allows the birds to range on new grasses/forages each day, enabling
them to have a more varied diet.
Research indicates that chickens raised in this manner have higher
amounts of vitamins/nutrients.
That fits our mission and model well, so we opted to go that route. The only problem was that I’d never
built any such contraption. I
looked at several plans and then just winged it. Sure enough, the first one is pretty rough, but the chickens
haven’t complained. I just
finished the second one, thanks in large part to the help of Justin Hammonds
and David Vance, good friends who spent a weekend helping me out. Although we lost one chicken in transit and two to an unknown illness within the first
two weeks, we now have 22 healthy “girls”. And they are sweet in nature, allowing the boys to pick them
up and move them without much of a fuss. By April, we should have eggs available by the
dozen. Australorps lay a large
brown egg and often are “double-yolkers”.
I am excited about being able to offer our customers these eggs. Let us know if you are interested!
I also spent some time planting a small winter garden for
us. This planting included
broccoli, snap peas, lettuce, spinach, turnip greens, and onions. All fared well with the exception of
the snap peas. Without insects and
weeds to deal with, I’m beginning to wonder if I shouldn’t try to grow more
stuff in the cooler months and expand our season.
Finally, we have been working on tractors, fixing
miscellaneous small engines, etc.
There is always plenty to do.
And my nemesis, organizing the barn, remains in the back of my
mind. I know that if I can tackle
this project, it would save a huge amount of time in the long run.
But, January is here and that means seed catalogs and
finalizing my irrigation design and installing it. Organizing may have to wait. For those that have signed up for our CSA this year, let me
know what your top veggies are so
that I make sure to include as many favorites as possible (and also let me know
if you have a favorite cultivar/variety).
Right now, the following types of produce are being planned:
lettuce (Romaine and butterhead types)
purple hull peas
As always, we welcome your input.
You can reach us via facebook, email, or phone. Many thanks to all who have signed up
for our CSA thus far. Please
spread the word as we still have room for additional members! Once we have closed registration, I
will be in contact with our future members concerning payment, delivery
schedule, distribution points, etc.
Again, thanks so much for your interest and we are looking forward to a