April 2016

Right now it’s May 3. We have about 400 chickens on our farm right now, 350 of them are little chicks. It’s a lot of work!

Most of these chickens are meat chickens, broilers, destined for the oven in a few months. I sell these chickens for $5 a pound and I know that’s expensive. I don’t like charging that much. But they are a lot of work! You have no idea, and that’s probably a good thing:) Just yesterday a raven got in to our broiler pen out on our pasture and killed at least 6 birds! That’s a first. We’ve had avian predators before, but usually they take 1 and leave. We have other predators to contend with as well. Fox, skunk, mink, owls, hawks, racoons… The electric fence is great protection- except for those with wings and beaks.

All of our pigs are gone. We raised 8 over the winter, they till our gardens and eat or shred 100’s of bags of tree leaves and old hay. Of course they fertilize too. Pigs are just great to have around. The drawback is they dig. So we don’t raise them in the summer. We tried pastured pigs for a few years, the short story is with the climate here, any digging they do in our pasture just doesn’t recover. It remains a bare spot in the pasture for several years. So, rather than fight their nature, we just raise pigs in the winter when we encourage them to dig (our gardens).

Pork in the smoker!

Pork in the smoker!

We cured our own hams and bacons (for our own use), and smoking is coming up in a few days. This is fun, but like anything farm related, it’s a lot of work and makes a mess. I wish we could cure and smoke meats and sell them, but that is simply not possible. The state health department and federal USDA don’t allow it. Seems backwards to me, but it all comes down to liability and they say we don’t know what we’re doing and we’re unsafe. So there you have it.

Our vegetable starts are coming along. We have a ton of tomato seedlings, nice and healthy. Several pepper plants. We started a lot of perrennial flowers. Fun stuff. We are just starting to harden them off in preparation for planting outside.

One thing we did different this year is are doing a straw bale garden. The primary reason we did this is we had about 25 old straw bales left that was used for pig and chicken housing over the winter. Dirty, stinky, abused straw bales. Growing our vegetables directly in the bales is possible. At the end of the growing season the bale has decomposed in to compost, and that was attractive to us too. We used this book as our guide:

Bales

These bales can be set on your concrete driveway and planted right there. No soil is needed. Put one on your porch, on a deck, balcony, etc. For us, we have plenty of garden space in excellent pig enhanced soil. So looking back on it, they don’t make a lot of sense for us. But we’re sticking with it and trying it for a year. I’ll put pictures up of what the garden looks like every month.

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The verdict is still out, but we will probably not do it again. There is a process to doing it, and part of that is called ‘conditioning’. Basically apply a bunch of high nitrogen fertilizer to the bale, water it in, and do it again the next day. I’ve never used this much fertilizer in my life for anything! The veggies do great, but in my mind it’s the fertilizer doing the work and seems to be a waste of money. At least for us.

Lots going on. And farmers market season is coming up. Many of you probably saw my little writeup in the Daily Press a few weeks ago. Awkward. More so because they didn’t interview me, they got all of their content off this website. See you all at the Montrose Farmers Market on May 21!

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