ave a plan. And make sure it employs connectivity between you, your land and your animals. Otherwise, you have compartmentalized divisions that never really “speak” to each other. I could go over all the connectivity on our farmstead but it really is too much for one post, so I’ll concentrate on the my tasks yesterday in the greenhouse and how I played the Kevin Bacon game on the farm. Too often we just think of the chore at hand and forget how each action we take has a reaction somewhere else.
In the symbiotic circle of a biological farm its hard to know where to start with an explanation or even a starting point. So you just have to jump in and start somewhere, because in reality it is a continuous cycle that is an ongoing, changing phenomenon. Where most of us fall down is connecting the dots. We want eggs or meat so we get chickens to fill that purpose, and we want vegetables, so we buy seeds and work up some soil and plant them. We have the garden over here, and the chickens off over there somewhere…and the only time we think of eggs and vegetables is when it’s breakfast time and the egg basket is overflowing the spinach bed looks like a shaggy mess – then the light bulb comes on! We can make a frittata! I want you to take it several steps further and really connect the parts into a whole.
My task yesterday was to get started on controlling the weeds in the greenhouse. With two weeks of sunny weather we have been working outside from dawn to dusk. Rainy days mean inside duties that have been somewhat neglected may get tended to. Maybe…
I think to the casual observer these beds look like a mess. And they are, but what I see is greens for the chickens, layers and meat chicks. Granted it would a symbolic symbiotic effort to leave the weeds as mulch and if I didn’t keep stock that would be a good use for them. But I do keep chickens for eggs and meat and because I confine my hens, I need to step up and bring them greens daily. There is a reason weeds have common names like Fat Hen and Chickweed… . Besides all our household scraps, the hens get daily vegetables. In the winter it may be roots and chickweed and in the summer they get overloaded with all the various garden trimmings that are deemed to blemished for the kitchen, not to mention all the coffee grounds and eggshells they can stand.
The hens get their share too, only after Russell inspects their food for them.
The method behind all my madness is the hen scratched chicken bedding/manure mix. I needed some for amending some new garden beds and the chickens were happy to trade for the greens. Chickens, not just for eggs!
Besides the weeds, any leaves discarded from the salad beds can be fed to the chickens. When you look at nutritional data comparing Lambsquarters to Spinach, the Lambsquarters are a much better source for Vitamin A, calcium, and other vitamins and minerals. Makes me think the chickens are eating better than we are. I add it to the harvest basket when it is handy, but maybe I should be including it more after doing that research.
The final thread connecting all this is Jane grazing down the paddocks where the broiler pen will go. The grass needs to be short for the young broilers and I need Jane close so I can keep an eye on her. The chickens will fertilize the grass as they go and it will be ready for another round of grazing later.
I consider myself an agrarian, not a free-range forager. I try to carefully orchestrate what goes on, so I am not being wasteful or impacting the land in a harsh way. The “P” word that really sets people off, production, in fact is a good way of being frugal. Waste not, want not, should be the motto. Whether it is supplies, feed, time, or animals. There is nothing wrong with production and systems, there is something wrong with letting animals and plants free-range and you hope for the best or the minimum, I want the most for me and my land and animals efforts. Don’t you? Is that selfish?