(written by Sam)
As usually happens with the farming season, June and early July have been pretty darn busy. I guess that’s how farm blogs usually go: “Hey, it’s the beginning of the season and I’m so excited and ambitious!” Next post, 4 months later: “Well, it was a great growing season…” So at least I haven’t slipped THAT much yet.
We’ve now delivered 8 farmshare boxes, and I think they’re pretty decent now. So far each box has had lettuce and kale, and we’ve rotated through the early vegetables like radishes, peas, and garlic scapes, and are starting to get into summer vegetables like beets, zucchini, and broccoli. We had our first yellow plums in the box this week, and transparent apples and Mirabelle plums will be ripe shortly. Of course, there’s still a few disappointments, like the carrots, eggplants, and early zucchini plantings (all destroyed by wireworm), and the artichokes, which didn’t survive the winter, although the new planting is growing nicely.
Now, on to the poultry tales.
Disbanding the Army
The turkeys were getting way too big for their little coop, the mature ducks hated the coffin, and the goose-and-runner-duck army was growing too large for the coffin. We rigged up an old market tent and some chicken wire to protect the ducks and geese from owls at night, but it was not a very good solution. It was time to build yet another coop.
The expensive expensive food was also disappearing disturbingly fast, and we figured the geese were to blame. They grew SO FAST. They’re only 8 weeks old, and weigh easily 10 pounds already. So no wonder! But, the nice thing about geese is that they are supposed to eat mostly grass, with only a small supplement of grain. Natural lawnmowers! But, if given access to grain, they will happily eat that instead of grass and get fat. So we needed to separate the geese from their army.
The geese are so big that they look like fully grown geese, but they still peep and cry when you pick them up, which is what we had to do to separate them from their beloved runner duck army. We set up a small pen in the orchard for them, so they can mow the lawn for us under the apple trees. And we thought we had found the solution.
The next day the geese barely moved. They just sat in the shade and did nothing. It was really sad. Later in the day, we moved the duck/turkey pen into the pasture section of the field, and had to herd the ducks over.
In the chaos of trying to get 3 separate duck flocks to move 100 feet together, the runner duck army broke away and found their goose leaders! They were so happy! And so were the geese! They found a weak spot in the fence and busted through so they could be together. We watched for another day, and saw how much happier and more active the geese were with ducks around, so we decided on a compromise.
One of the ducks (a tall white runner duck) had always flocked closer with the geese than the other ducks (maybe he thinks he’s a goose?) so we left him with the geese. And the Welsh Harlequin female (the Dimmest Wit, the only one), has a hard time keeping up with the runner duck army, so she also got to stay. And the geese seem pretty satisfied with their much smaller army. Good to keep your generals happy, I suppose.
The Turkey Parabola
We decided to build a really light and large turkey/duck house. We weren’t trying to make a predator-proof house, just something that would stay inside the electric fence and keep owls out. I had originally thought we would just do a half-circle, because it’s easy to figure out how long the frame pieces need to be, but that would make a house that’s only 4 feet tall. Adam really wanted to make it taller, but we wanted to keep it narrow enough to fit on the back of Noo Noo if needed for longer moves. We could always just wing it, but how would we know how much wood to buy? (Yes, we’ve finally exhausted our landlords’ junk pile in the back of the property, and had to resort to actually buying building materials this time).
Luckily, we’re both gigantic nerds, and we know lots of math. After a short debate about whether an ellipse or a parabola would be easier, we settled on the parabola. So, the equation of our turkey coop (in feet) is
y = -0.36 x2 + 6
The hoop wall/ceiling is made out of 2 “concrete panels” which I think you’re supposed to use in pouring large concrete areas (like a driveway). We added some chicken wire on the back, front, and door, and it was ready for the turkeys to move in! The best part is it’s light enough for me and Adam to pretty easily carry it.
The turkeys are still delightful. When we put them onto a new patch of grass, they ran around happily cheeping and catching little leafhoppers. And they still come running up to the fence every time we walk by. They are also incredibly curious: while I was doing some repairs to the chicken wire on the coop (staples are NOT strong enough to hold in the turkeys and frantic ducks), they kept coming up and pecking my fingers while I was working! Somehow annoying and endearing at the same time. They’re really starting to look like little ugly turkeys now, instead of cute little chickies.
As an experiment, we put the chickens onto weedy, grassy pasture, untilled and unmowed, just to see how long it would take them to break it down. This is pasture that has only been growing weeds and grass for at least a decade, so this is a pretty big job. It took about 6 weeks for 25-30 chickens (we killed some roosters in that time, so the count went down a bit). Good work, chickens! They were quite happy yesterday to get some fresh pasture (and bugs) after being in the same spot for so long.
But, the most exciting news!
The chicks that I hatched back in February have laid their first eggs! I can tell because they are tiny eggs, and because I’m suddenly getting way more blue and green eggs than ever before (way to go Elvis! Thanks for the Ameraucana genes!) What’s interesting though, is I had read that the blue/green egg colour genes are dominant, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. Some of the new tiny eggs are brown. Perhaps Elvis is not purebred? Anyway, I’m happy to get more eggs. Thanks, chickens!