Boy, spring gets busy! This is our regular weekly update but it spans two weeks. In the past two weeks we’ve planted the garden, moved the greenhouse from the house down to the garden (with a nice foundation and a crushed gravel floor!), the cows have come down from their winter pasture and we’ve added a new cow and a bull to the small herd, and we got the big yards mowed (for our area and this wet spring, this is a big deal!). I hope to write brief updates on each of the flocks/herds below but I also have one or two other entries planned. Let’s see if I can pull all of this off!
Last Monday the Broilers moved outside at 4 weeks old. I’m grateful for the delay in posting because it causes me to LOOK at how they’ve grown in the past 8 days – quite a bit!
The video was taken the day they moved out of the brooding house and into their tractor.
This photo is from today, at 5 weeks old. They are scheduled for processing at 8 weeks and if they continue to grow at the rate I’ve observed in the last few days, they’re right on schedule! They went from 2 full tubs of food Our next batch of broiler chicks arrives one week from now.
The two groups of layers are doing well, all things considered. The juvenile hens are growing nicely and have just switched over to The Red Bridge Farm layer feed, and they really like it! Previously they were on an organic crumble, but since the switch they are eating a little more in volume and *not* wasting their feed by digging through it and spilling it on the ground. I’m curious to see if they have a growth burst shortly. They are due to start laying eggs in about 5 weeks or more.
The older hens have met a few struggles – specifically the eagles that live in our woods. In the last 2 weeks we’ve had 3 different hens fly off clutched in eagle feet, yet the eagles haven’t been able to keep a good hold on them and have absconded with talons full of feathers as the hens have dropped back to the ground. Some of the hens are a bit weary of leaving the tractor, and I don’t blame them! There are piles of feathers in several of their frequent locations and a few half-naked birds, but everyone is accounted for, healthy, and intact. These birds are still on the organic crumble and we’ll switch them over to the new feed when I order feed next. I’ll be watching to see if their egg production changes with the new feed.
The cows have moved down from the winter pasture and into the grazing rotation! They were very excited to get back to their “favorite field” and they are excited to see me coming every morning as I move their fence along, giving them fresh grass daily. And by excited, I do mean that the two heifers act like excited puppies in the way they run and want to play. It is a bit intimidating at times and when they get within 10′ of me I make them stop or turn around. It’s sweet to watch them loving life. We bred the oldest cow via AI in the past two weeks, after the AI last fall didn’t take for her or the oldest heifer. Then the following week we brought in a little Angus bull for the heifers. When he arrived he came with a new cow and she is an ornery cuss! Hopefully she’ll figure out how we do things here and settle in, but she sure intimidated me for the first few days!
Here they are this morning and a short bit about the pasture they’re grazing through:
Sheep & Goats:
The sheep and goats are grazing away and making great progress through the pastures I’ve given them. The babies are growing nicely and the mamas are shedding out, some nicer than others. The big blue thing in the first photo above is 1/3 of a street sweeping brush. We have put this in their pasture here, next to the shelter, so the ewes can rub on it and brush their shedding hair off. It’s still new to them and only a few adventurous lambs and one ewe have gotten up the nerve to inspect it yet. If you look at the other photo you can see how the hair is coming off in large mats for several of the sheep. Some have shed their winter coat in full and it came out very easily, others haven’t had such luck. But the heavy downpour they were out in yesterday sure gave them a nice shower and loosened up some of that hair!
Herbs, Salves & Tinctures:
I made a video about harvesting stinging nettle a bit ago and the nettle took longer to dry that other years because we’ve had such a cool and wet spring so far. But the nettle is dry and as soon as I go buy the necessary Vodka, I’ll record the next step to making Nettle Tincture, or as our family calls it, Green Fire Water.
The plantain that has been harvested and dried so far will go into the storage room for salve making at a later date. So far these are the only two herbs I’ve harvested though there are a lot of other great herbs out there just waiting for me to have time to harvest them!
The garden is almost fully planted. There are only a few items yet to be planted. The wood chip mulch is great and the soil life is thriving under it! In previous years, even with added compost and mulch, I’ve never seen so many worms. I’m very encouraged by this. Because the first mowing of the yard was so full of grass seeds, I did not use the clipped grass as added mulch but with subsequent mowing I will use the clipped grass to mulch around the plants. This helps with the nitrogen issues that wood chip mulch can bring as the chips require a lot of nitrogen to decompose. Plus, it’s another form of recycling and turning my lawn into food!