Jeepers Peepers!

Some will probably argue it, but spring is here–or at least the frogs and toads seem to think so!

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For the past few weeks, our days (and especially nights) have been filled with the chirps and cricks of the “spring peepers.” I hadn’t really heard of or noticed these little ones before, but after experiencing them out here on the farmstead in such symphonic surround sound, I will forever perceive them as a sign of the season.

Just so you are aware, if you play the video below, you will certainly witness some frog-on-frog-on-frog action (viewer discretion is advised 🙂

Here is the start of a lovely biology lesson that has unfolded before us. We’ll include more pictures as the tadpoles develop.

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These helixes started forming in our garden swales and really perplexed me before I took some time to look closer. Those aren’t chia seeds, folks. We’re expecting…tadpoles!20140419-203203.jpg

We couldn’t ask for a better home-education lesson for Judah. Julia and I both had what would typically be considered excellent educational experiences while growing up, but neither of us had witnessed anything like this before (note Judah’s reflection in the water)!20140419-203223.jpg

The tiniest tadpoles just after hatching.20140419-203437.jpg

Starting to beef-up.20140419-203452.jpg

In permaculture, we make use of the abundance and productivity found in the edges of systems because it is nature’s tendency to do so–this concept is made quite clear by the actions of the tadpole!20140419-203520.jpg

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Here’s what these serious swimmers can do (it’s quite mesmerizing to watch):

Stay tuned. There’s more to come!

New Chooks = New Digs

Back in February we acquired a new flock of 23 red sex-linked hens (in addition to the 18 chickens we already had). We had many people from far and wide very interested in buying our eggs on a regular, standing order basis, so deciding to honor the rule of supply and demand, we more than doubled our flock. This meant I needed to get busy building a new coop.

I have built two coops in the past: one for a small flock of 6 (though it could be modified to fit plenty more), and another (the duck house) that could accommodate about 12 – 15 birds. This most recent coop is definitely the best of my designs. When building coops I like to use as many “found materials” as I possibly can. In addition, due to the fact that our flocks our mobile (rotated with moveable electric fence throughout our land), in the woods, and we have no tractor to pull have coops, we need to have semi-lightweight coops (light enough to be pulled by one strong individual). This is why I turn to pallets for my foundations–they are very strong, but light enough to move quite easily once wheels are attached.

 

Thin and light plywood siding

With this coop, I did purchase some 2×3’s, hardware cloth, and fencing tacks to be used in conjunction with old scrap 2×4’s, plywood, nails, screws, hinges, clasps and Ondura roofing pieces that I had from a previous project. Judah was a big helper on this project and we were able to get it done in only a couple afternoons (along with all the other regular farm chores).

Judah tacking down the hardware cloth

The coop design has a large door for relatively easy access for cleaning, a hardware cloth floor to prevent sneaky critters from breaking and entering, and a vent on either side near the roof for good air flow.

The coop is coming together

The pre-used roofing is layered for proper watershed and could have a gutter piece added to gather drinking water for the girls.

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There is a large nesting box door for easy access to those yummy eggs.

Exterior view of nesting box door (+ Judah)

And three nesting boxes to accommodate the nesting needs of up to 24 birds!

Nesting boxes

There are 4 primary roosts and a 5th lower roost to be utilized as an assist up to the other roosts or as overflow if it is needed (I prefer to use actual branches for their roosts, as chickens in the wild would not typically perch on 2×2’s).

Roosts to accomodate 25 chickens

The girls were easily able to fit 6 on a roost, especially during the colder months. I call this my best coop design because it is mobile, it can comfortably hold 24 birds in a 3’x4′ space, while also keeping them completely secure from predation–I haven’t seen anything that comes close to this. It is efficient, inexpensive, and super easy to build as long as you have the proper tools. The most expensive part of the coop is the flat-free tires and axle–very important for woodland raised, mobile chickens!

Let me know if you have any questions about this coop project and remember to be safe and have fun during all building projects.

Talk to you again soon!

 

The VABF Conference

Hello out there! It’s been a while without a post, I know, I know… it’s for good reason, I assure you–much has been happening for the last couple months and I will do my best to get everyone caught up on all the hubbub as soon as possible.

It was my birthday at the end of January and my gift (from my lovely wife) was a ticket to the Virginia Biological Farming Conference! And what a gift it was: there were many workshops chock full of info that will help us develop our land into a fully operational farmstead! I attended workshops on how to run a market greenhouse , edible landscaping, small farm structures, beneficial instects,  herd management, and more, but the most enlightening workshop I went to was an all day, pre-conference event with Gunther Hawk on the subject of Biodynamics and beekeeping. It was phenomenal!

Gunther Hawk at the VABF ConferenceIt was inspiring and uplifting despite the challenging status for bees at this time and prepared me well for starting work with our first bee hive this spring. Gunther, formerly a Waldorf class teacher, also discussed Biodynamic farming in general and covered the preparations that are prescribed for healing the land and our food. I was also very excited to apply theses preparations to our land as we move along and develop over the years. Gunther (Pictured above) was a fountainhead of knowledge and a very witty presenter. I highly suggest you check out his website for up coming classes and information on why bees are so important, especially today– http://spikenardfarm.org/
Bee well!