Today’s Success! 4/13/17

Today is a big day for our Pastured Poultry Layers.  Well, it is for me anyway.

Today Chicken Tractor #1 met up with Tractor #2 and from now on, they will travel the pastures together.  Phew!  There were some long moves for the older girls every day, and they protested a little at first.  But after the video was complete they followed me from the barn to their new home and began happily scratching in the pasture.

The sheep & goats passed through this field 4 days ago now and while it’s been chilly and wet, there *are* some bugs beginning to thrive in the pastures so the girls will be well nourished – fat and happy.

First Lambs of 2017

Lambing has begun here at Tikkun Homestead.  Now we know why these two mamas have been looking SO ready to lamb for so long now – triplets!  The first two girls to lamb each had triplets – two girls and one boy each.  Baruch Hashem they had healthy and easy deliveries with healthy babies.

Our first set of lambs are from an ewe who has a history of being a poor mom.  This year was to be her final shot.  In the past she has twinned and brutally rejected one twin, each year.  We’ve been watching her closely so we would be ready to rescue the one she would reject, and it was apparent that she was having multiples by her size.  When we looked out the window at dawn on Sunday we saw that she had two lambs and she was at peace with them, this was such a change!  By the time we got to her we were able to see that there were three babies, and she was tending to each of them quite well.  What a blessing to have her become such a good mother all of the sudden!

The next ewe to lamb also had triplets and she’s known for being a very good mama.  In fact, she often tends to the first ewe’s babies as well as her own.  They are penned next to one another and even so, the first ewe is still being an excellent mother.  We are so grateful!

We were able to get the ewes out into the back yard for their first nibble of fresh grass while we tended to a first time mama and her babies – she had triplets but I didn’t get to her in time and with all of the newness, she didn’t get the sack off of the nose of the last one before he suffocated.  She was tending so well to the other two and to him, but cleaning his rear end instead of his face.  Poor little guy.  So she’ll raise twin ram lambs, and I’m okay with that for a first time mama.  It is a reminder for me to be more diligent in my checks, particularly with first time mamas!  For now she’s penned up with her boys and getting used to the idea of motherhood.

4/2/17 Pasture Update

Our family spent two years focusing on overseas projects and in that time we sold our herd of cattle and downsized our flock of sheep considerably .  Since we’ve returned to the farm in full, livestock prices have jumped significantly and we haven’t been able to run the volume of livestock that we once did.  This means that large portions of our pastures have not been grazed for a few years, this block below being the final section of under grazed pasture in recent years.  This year we intend to fence the perimeter line for sheep & goats so we can run everyone together with daily pasture rotations.  It’s a big task!  On Sunday we measured the perimeter fence that needs to be replaced – 1,000 feet of 4′ – 2″ x 4″ mesh.  Our perimeter line crosses a seasonal creek in 3 places, and nothing is flat.  But we’ll bite into this project and chew like crazy – it’s just how we do things, I guess!

After we got our bearings in the southwest pasture, we took to planting the last of the native tree order we received the last weekend.  It turns out we had 150 trees to plant, I had thought it was a few less than it turned out to be.  That’s a lot of trees!  But they’re all in the ground and we’re hoping they take root nicely.  As we neared the end of our planting, the dog and cat who had been following us through the fields were still playing and getting tuckered out too.  I thought our readers might enjoy a few seconds of watching two buddies playing together.

Planting Trees in the Pastures

This weeks update is about our pasture revitalization project of tree planting.  Last fall I took a permaculture course and the information I learned there confirmed my earlier desire to plant some small groves of trees in the pastures.  There are a variety of reasons to plant native trees in our pastures, some of them being seasonal shade and wind blocks for the livestock and shade for the clay soil we have.  We live in a mild, non-brittle climate so our animals are not accustomed to temperatures much over 72*, which is our average high temperature in July and August.  During the peak of the summer months the daytime temperatures can get as high as the upper 90’s, and in the direct sunshine,that sure is hot!  Personally, I love the heat.  But I’m alone in this infatuation with high temperatures.  My husband, my soils, and the animals are much less excited than I am.  It is hard on the animals as they get stressed and lose weight, and it is hard on the soil as it heats up and begins to go dormant and all soil life moves down to cooler temperatures.

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  • adj.     Emphasizing the importance of the whole and the interdependence of its parts.
  • adj.     Concerned with wholes rather than analysis or separation into parts: holistic medicine; holistic ecology.

For a little while “holistic” was a $20 word, a fancy word and concept that people liked to use so they sound well-educated.  Today it is both a word and a concept that average people are fairly familiar with.  We find holistic modalities in every area of life today as we begin to better understand that nothing is independent from everything else.  From what modern science is learning, and what observers have noted for millennia, is that all of creation operates as a whole unit of systems composed of multiple smaller whole units and that there are reliable patterns to the way things go when they hum along to produce desirable outcomes.

I appreciated these quotes from the book Holistic Management: A Common Sense Revolution To Restore Our Environment:  “… the world is composed of patterns – of matter, energy, and life – that function as wholes whose qualities cannot be predicted by studying any aspect in isolation. We would know very little about water, for instance, by making an exhaustive study of hydrogen or oxygen, even though every molecule of water is composed of both. … We now realize that no whole, be it a family, a business, a community, or a nation, can be managed without looking inward to the lesser wholes that combine to form it, and outward to the greater wholes of which it is a member.”  Continue reading

Tikkun Olam, The Redemption & The Garden

There is a teaching that says that when the redemption comes all will be restored to the state things were in when Adam and Eve were in the garden.  This teaching has deeply affected me and how I view things.  I wanted to try to share a bit of that here, as it helps to explain the perspective this blog is coming from.  Tikkun Olam means “restoring the world” and below I’ll share some thoughts about one aspect of this concept.

In the beginning when HaShem was busy creating all that is, He brought things forth in a particular order and He was pleased with how they turned out.  At the end of the sixth day we read, “And G-d saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good.”  Very good!  Meod tov!  We also read:  “HaShem took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”  Very good.  He was satisfied with His creation and He rested.

What I want to look at with you is the duty to which Adam and Eve were fulfill:  to work and to keep the garden.  This sounds delightful to those of us who are gardeners and nature lovers.  But what are we to make of it? Continue reading

Use vs Rest

There is a popular theory that mankind has caused desertification through over-grazing and that the solution to this desertification is pulling the animals off of the damaged land and letting it rest so it can return to its natural state.  It’s a nice idea, but it hasn’t worked.

Alan Savory has noted, many times, that around the globe where this theory has been implemented that the land which was damaged by over-grazing and then let to lay fallow has not recovered but instead it has continued in its lifeless trajectory.  The theory is a failure, as can be seen when one looks at the globe with Google Earth.
What Mr Savory has observed in his years of study and global travels is that livestock use is critical to land restoration. Continue reading

Day Ranging Laying Hens; The Tractor

This is our first year with pastured poultry and I’m hoping to document our progress, success, and failures for the education and assistance of the masses.  Personally I do not like to eat chicken.  I’ve cleaned enough birds that “foul” describes not only a type of bird and a smell, but a flavor that isn’t all that attractive to me anymore.  However, my pastures have needs and my chickens also have needs, so it seems appropriate to marry the two.  I read in The Stockman Grass Farmer journal a bit ago that anyone raising beef and not following them with pastured poultry of some type is “leaving money on the table” by way of reduced grass growth potential.  That was one of my final pushes to get me seriously thinking about pastured poultry.

In future videos you’ll see how our pastures are looking and the projects we’re working on as we press toward a restoration of the soil biology and diversity of life above and within the soil.  But for now I’m going to show you the tractor my talented husband built and introduce you to the beginning of our pastured poultry journey. Continue reading