Sunday, January 19, 2014

The New Flock and Spent Grain Update

The poultry run has been pretty quiet for the last several months.  In autumn we processed all the old birds who were no longer laying.  The one long day we spent processing was an unwelcome chore but what a relief when it was all over and the freezer was full of chicken and duck for the winter stock.  Last August we bought twenty five laying chicks and our new flock has grown fabulously.  Raised on a soured milk diet, they are now almost five months and we expect them to begin laying soon.  We are ecstatic to have reached our goal of completely cutting off store bought feed! For about four months we have been feeding a combination of spent grain (fermented non-gmo barley that we get for free from a local brewery), vegis from the garden, organic green bin waste, our kitchen scraps-including fish and meat, and clabbored milk.  After doing a bunch of reading and combing the internet for recipes/ratios of homemade feed made with spent grain we really didn't find much useful information so we have been experimenting with trial and error.  What we learned is that our birds all love the spent grain but when fed to the younger pullets they had bloody stool within a day.  So we kept to the sour milk diet while they were growing with a supplement of organic grower crumble. Once they reached 6-8 weeks they transitioned from the brooder to the run and started on spent grain combined with vegis, etc.  They are all looking happy and healthy.  It will be exciting to find out how well they will lay on this diet.  Since we especially chose high production breeds this time around we are hoping for lots of yummy eggs.  I have to admit, I miss all the colors of the old flock.  The three breeds we chose are not as bright; white leghorns, red and black sexlinks, as well as our one random Americauna who gives us her periodic green egg.

We have big plans for the run to be an experimental food forest with apple, olive, fig and mulberry trees, Siberian pea shrubs, bamboo, comfrey and several nitrogen fixing cover crops to support the trees and give the poultry a little forage.  Everything is so dry, the chickens and ducks will be happy to be surrounded by more greenery.  In the meantime we will build a massive compost pile in the run for the chickens to scratch, turn, and feed off of then they will be pastured through our small orchard while we transform their habitat. 

Check out this clip of a very cool, inspiring video about feeding chickens without grain. 

Other ideas...we're thinking of ordering Bourban Red turkeys and geese in a couple of months.  It will be so fun to have a bustling poultry yard again!

Thursday, January 16, 2014


The horizon leans forward, 
offering you space to place new steps of change.
-Maya Angelou


The new year has arrived and it's hard to believe we are almost through January.  It has been feeling more like May around these parts.  The weather is alarmingly warm and with no rain the land is becoming arid.  We are so grateful  for the grey water system that filters and steadily drips our wash water down to our garden beds. There is nothing else for us to do other than pray for rain and embrace this warm spell.  The starts are overflowing in their flats and so the planting has begun.  All the vegis in the mini green houses are slowly going into the ground; collards, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, artichokes, and lettuce.  I am hoping that this will be the year of growing massive quantities, especially of beans (runners, pole, and bush), squash, greens, and potatoes, as well as some drought resistant edibles like quinoa.  However, this is also the year for us to begin transitioning our property into food forests and perennials.  We are bursting at the seems waiting to implement our plans and ideas--little by little--and patience.

It has been amazingly quiet around here lately.  With systems in place and no baby animals to tend, there has been very little drama.  The days flow in and out with family, chores, and visitors.  Ginger's steady supply of milk keeps us creatively conjuring up different kinds of cheese and ice cream.  

We have been hosting our old friend Ellis, the Oberhasli buck we have used for the past three years to breed our does.  He has been an extremely well behaved guy and is quite content with his harem of ladies.  

He passes his day following one to the next, usually with his nose in someone's behind. Goats!!  Fortunately May Daisy doesn't mind too much and seems to welcome the affection.  

The kids who were born in May are now eight months old, cute and naughty as can be. fence seems to be able to hold them. Yes, that's the nature of goats, they are true free spirits!  This is the year of giving: giving to others and giving our all...taking impeccable care of ourselves and being the best we can be.

Happy January everyone!  May all your positive new year intentions come to fruition.  Peace and blessings!