In the name of spring prep and animal enclosure we have taken a few steps making a home for our ducks and meat chicks and the upcoming goats, sheep, and llama. We haven’t thought much about the turkeys except when a wild one crosses the road or field. The ducks and chicks moved out of the basement and into the barn after about three or four weeks. We wanted them to get bigger so they could handle the cold April nights in the barn, even though they would have a heat lamp to keep them warm. The ducks were booted earlier because they are a messy bunch. It’s tough to keep up with their water and wood chip situation without a little bit of smell. The ten ducks grew quickly and became interim residents of the egg layer area of the barn. We soon found out that the ducks love the rain and enjoyed complaining if we opened their door too late in the morning or closed it too soon in the evening. The ducks have a group personality that keep them together wherever they go and give a collective side eye if they hear you talking about duck confit.
The meat chicks took a bit longer to get bigger and feather out, but now also enjoy the big barn. They inhabited the future turkey area, but now have moved into the larger egg layer area since the ducks have moved toward the pond. It’s been a bit of animal juggling to move them around, but it all makes since to Molly and me. The egg layer area has a nice sliding barn entrance whereas the turkey area needs a service door installed to allow any birds to be let out of this area. I haven’t taken the plunge into the metal siding of the barn with my new favorite tool, the angle grinder, quite yet. We want the ducks to get comfortable near the pond so built “Duckingham Palace” for them to have sweet night digs. The ducks moved yesterday, and so far love the rainy weather, but are struggling with the ramp to the baby pool. The temporary fencing around them works great to train them to be comfortable near the pond and keep them close to their home. Eventually, the fencing will be gone and they will live on the pond and come in for the evening to their rickshaw-styled enclosure. We can move it around the shore and let them free range.
Molly went to Beeline Apiary in Mendon and drove home with 30,000 bees in nuc boxes in the back of the SUV. We transferred frames to the two hives near the garden and had fun trying to pour out the leftovers in the box without getting them too angry.
As for other fences, we spent this week assembling our goat, sheep, and llama pasture fencing consisting of steel T- posts, 4’ Red Brand wire fence, and a hotwire. Between the walk out and the pasture we installed about 1100’ of fence and 140 T-posts. The tractor was useful for pounding posts and holding and tightening the fence as we installed it. We cut lengths of galvanized wire to wrap around the fencing and T-post to make connections and used a cordless drill to twist and tighten the lengths. After the first 400’, we had our system down well and moved quite quickly.
Also in the fencing realm, we have a local contractor building our garden fence made of Black Locust poles and welded wire. The poles are up and he should be here tomorrow to clad them with the fencing. In this area, it’s a race to keep up the planting of blueberries, hardy kiwis, asparagus, thornless blackberries, raspberries, gooseberries, and elderberries. We have plenty of seedlings of cauliflower, kohlrabi, greens of all kind, pollinator flowers, tomatoes, peppers, and herbs in the high tunnel. Our beds of spinach, arugula, swiss chard, and radishes are full and ready for sale. Also in this vein, we established a tree orchard and nursery to help prepare for the coming years.
The fruit tree orchard is on the hill toward the entrance of the property and consists of sweet cherries, pie cherries, plums, peaches, nectarines, pears, and apples. Peter Bane and Keith Johnson designed the orchard to utilize the contours of the land for the health of the trees and the soil. There are a variety of trees and a total of 55 that should bear fruit in three to four years. Peter and Keith have been integral to the design of the farm and have created an overall plan based on permaculture principles. Peter and Keith are a beautiful presence in our lives and an inspiration for land stewardship. Many of our future projects will be a reflection of their vision.
To prepare for planting, a subsoiler on the back of the tractor marked the lines on contour of the hill and helped break up the soil to allow for the auger to drill holes every 20’. Ry dug out the hole a bit larger and flagged each one specific colors to keep to the plan. We used mycorrhizal root dip on the rootstock to help build fungal connections and filled the holes using topsoil, a little compost, Azomite and gravel. The rocks help prevent voles from attacking the roots. A bag of pea gravel right around the base will help some weeding and some wood chips around that will help with the fungal network ala Michael Phillips. Tree tubes are connected to stakes to protect from deer and help them grow straight.
We did a similar process, though with a few less frills, for our tree nursery toward the back of the property. A tree nursery is meant more to keep some favorable species on site for transplant at a later date. Mostly from the Berrien Conservation District’s annual tree sale, we put in Tulip Poplar, Serviceberry, Highbush Cranberry, Buttonbush, Eastern Redbud, Lilacs, Northern Spruce, Black Locust, and American Hazelnut. We will add to these seventy trees in the nursery over the next couple years and then move them one at a time to their final spot as we find a good location.
No strand weaves this work together into a neat finalized form. The continual state of becoming a farm as we get through some projects, and others left ’til “we get some free time” must be embraced. As I took a walk today to get some pictures of the work we’ve done, it’s nice to notice more and more places with a light touch of our hand and a purposeful use.